Choosing to apply for a Fulbright grant was the easiest part of the application. The steps that come after that initial choice certainly lend themselves to considerably more effort and significant reward.
I decided that I wanted to apply for a Fulbright grant in my sophomore year of college. I set the application as one of my goals (I still managed to procrastinate on starting it) and kept the Fulbright in mind throughout my college experience. I chose to apply for the English Teaching Assistantship in Spain and I made this choice early on. I am fluent in Spanish and had studied abroad in Spain and visited once before. If you have been to Spain, you can probably understand how it was an easy choice. It’s hard not to fall in love with the culture, the art, and the people. However, my love for all of those things is only superseded by my love for Spanish language. The opportunity to live in a place that is the origin of the language that I love was irresistible.
The only other passion that I have that parallels my love for the Spanish language is my passion for teaching and helping others. The ETA Fulbright position offered me the opportunity to incorporate all of the things I truly care about, and the decision to apply for this type of grant was hardly even a choice. The application process comes a lot more easily if you choose what you love.
I began my application about a month before it was due, which I would not recommend. There is no such thing as having too much time to work on something. Although I regret waiting to start the application, I’m a notorious procrastinator and there is a 100% chance that I would do it the same all over again. With the help of Dr. Beverly Hawk, I completed my two essays, my application, and secured my three recommenders within the month of application period that I had allowed myself.
After months of waiting to hear back about my Fulbright grantee status, while I was in California over spring break, I decided to check my email. I normally have a policy that while I’m on vacation, I don’t check email, but I had a feeling, and following that feeling led to my discovery that I had received a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant in Spain. My last semester of my undergraduate career flew by from that moment, with me completely euphoric (aside from the visa process, which you will definitely hear about later on).
I cannot wait to be living my dream of teaching and living in Madrid, Spain and that journey starts in 8 days. An anomaly for me, I am packed and ready to go. I am still in utter disbelief that I will be living this experience in a little over a week, but thankful for the opportunity and those who encouraged and supported me on the way. I’m looking forward to updating in my next blog post, straight out of Madrid. ¡Hasta luego!
Filed under Europe, Teaching
In typical Brianna fashion, by chance I emailed Dr. Hawk at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships the day on-campus Fulbright applications were due. The night before former Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Emma Fick and I caught up over coffee, and she strongly encouraged me to apply. The program had been rather off of my radar, but I decided to take the leap of faith and send an email to Dr. Hawk.
Needless to say, I was incredibly behind in the application process and threw myself into the process of selecting a country to apply for. I remember staying up into the wee hours of the mourning pouring over the requirements, expectations, and acceptance rates for countless countries. I believe deciding on a country was in all honesty the hardest part of the application process!
By 3:00 AM in the morning, after a long night made slightly better by numerous cups of tea and First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold album (highly recommend!), I finally selected a country.
Here are some tips:
- Narrow down the number of countries by selecting a particular region or two from the Fulbright website (i.e. East Asia-Pacific, Europe & Eurasia, etc.)
- Make an Excel document to keep track of the following information for each country:
- Type of placement – university, high school, middle school, elementary school, etc.
- Language requirements– Many countries require that you have a certain level of proficiency in the native language. This requirements helped me narrow down my options as I only speak one language at a conversational level.
- Expectations – Some countries require that you also submit an additional project proposal. Others expect you to be teach ACT/SAT prep classes, coach a sports team, etc.
- Your Role as a Teacher – Does the country specify whether you will be responsible for teaching an entire class on your own for the year? This means you’ll likely be responsible for developing curriculum, etc. Or will you be assisting your mentor teacher with speaking exercises and serving as a conversation partner? This is very important to consider, especially if you might be worried about your level of teaching experience. Also see if they specify the number of hours you’ll be working each week.
- Preferred Candidates – You’ll see that some countries will note that preference is given to Bachelor’s and Master’s students enrolled in particular disciplines, such as STEM disciplines and the humanities (such as Poland). Each country is looking for a slightly different applicant.
- Acceptance Rates – It isn’t a bad idea to take a look at your odds and see how much competition you’re likely to have for the position.
- Consider the country’s culture, climate, and way of life. Steps 1 and 2 should help you narrow down your choices quite a bit. Now it’s time to really delve into what makes each country unique. Aspects such as the climate are relatively easy to Google, however you would be surprised how hard it is to get a handle on a country’s culture from online searches alone. Try to read some blog posts from former ETAs or from Americans living abroad in that country to get an idea of what life is like there.
- How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to go? Will I be able to adjust to a certain culture?
And there we have it! A rough guide to thinking through the country selection process. All that’s left is to fill out the application. No big deal, right?
Who knew one cup of a coffee with a friend and former Fulbright ETA could alter my life plans so drastically. I am so glad I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and plunge headlong into this new adventure! In a little over a week from now I’ll be leaving Dallas and flying to the Czech Republic to begin my year as an ETA.
“Czech” out my next blog post to learn more about where I’ll be living and how I’m preparing for the upcoming year! (I would like to say that I’ll stop making the painfully cheesy “Czech” jokes, but we all know I won’t.)
Filed under Europe, Teaching