Tag Archives: Fulbright English Teaching Assistant

Holidays in Germany

Posted by Katie L.

Hello from Cuxhaven! The past few months have consisted of time off for the holidays with family, getting to better know colleagues, brief snowfall, and lots of walks and hikes. At the end of November, many cities were able to open their traditional month-long Christmas markets. With holiday music, decorations, and so many good things to eat, I happily checked out markets in Bremen, Hamburg and Cuxhaven. My parents were able to come to spend the holidays with me here in Germany; it was such a cool and nice experience to show them were I work and live, as well as to introduce them to a colleague from my school’s English team. We spent the break exploring the surrounding area and visiting with family friends in central Germany. After spending New Year’s together (known here as “Silvester”), my parents flew home and I headed back to Cuxhaven to wrap up my first school term. The school schedule here is somewhat different: the fall/winter semester just ended with the last days of January, and the new school semester will begin tomorrow (February 2nd). I will continue working in some of the same English and German language classrooms that I have been involved with, as well as with a few new English classes with 11th and 12th graders. In my “German as a Foreign Language” class, (for teenagers and young adults who have moved to Germany in recent days, weeks or months and must reach German language proficiency), another teacher and I are working on a “Stadtrallye” for the students. This is somewhat like a city scavenger hunt/rally, designed to help the students to become more familiar with the city of Cuxhaven. In my English courses, students tackle a variety of subjects from current and historical social justice issues (in the US, in South Africa, and around the world), to Shakespeare, to the integration of refugees and migrants in Germany, to the politics of clothing production, and more. Students are interested in learning more about recent and current political and social movements in the US in particular, which allows for a good deal of reflection on my own perceptions and for a curiosity of my own regarding my home country. 

The German education system’s structure is somewhat different than what we experience in the US. After primary school (after the fourth grade), students are funneled into different study tracks based on teacher recommendations. Some are selected to follow a track lasting until they are about 18 years old that will offer preparation for studying at a university, while others may follow tracks at separate schools (such as vocational training programs) lasting until approximately age 15. At the school where I work, there are a variety of study tracks, along with the option to combine traditional academic learning with vocational training and internships. Some argue that the country’s educational structure leads to an unfair separation and organization of young people, while others suggest that the separation better targets students’ needs.

On a final note, new foods tried this month were Roulade and Labskaus (Northern German classics!).


Liebe Grüße aus Cuxhaven

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ETA in Germany

Posted by Robert H.

Hey y’all, Robert here.

I am from Mobile, Alabama and a 2018 graduate of the University of Alabama in political science and lifelong Blount Scholar. I originally thought I was not able to pursue a Fulbright Scholarship because of my GPA. It was good, a 3.28, but not great compared to the GPAs of other applicants for the three most prestigious international scholarships: Rhodes, Gates-Cambridge, and Fulbright. Further, I was a first-generation college student with no one in my community who had even thought about ever applying to Fulbright. Yet at the recommendation of Dr Feminella, who at the time was my German Professor (bless him for having to read my German essays back then), I set out to make an application for masters studies in Germany. Looking back as a graduate student now, this application was lacking a precise vision for what I wanted to study and how I wanted to apply both my time in Germany and my Master that I would gain in Germany. However, with the incredible support of UA’s Fulbright advisors, I was able to pass the first round and on to the final decision. However, around the time that I was about to graduate, I received a rejection letter. Distraught as I was set on starting my masters and being in Germany, I decided to seek out advice from both UA faculty and friends abroad and came to the conclusion that I should spend a year taking a job abroad and building up my resume to apply again. That decision, with encouragement from the entire advising staff, ended up being the best year of my life at that point. My time living and teaching English in Korea gave me the confidence and showed me a love for teaching that influenced my second Fulbright application as an English Teaching Assistant to Germany. Amidst the advent of the pandemic, I received notification that I had been accepted for a Fulbright Scholarship, which turned out to be a life-changer. I would have to wait another year to start my Fulbright, however, until we had the tools we had today to fight the pandemic with full force. Once August 2021 came around, I prepared myself for my flight to Germany with the assignment to the small city of Plauen, Saxony.

Since being here, I have constantly been surprised by the shared culture Germans and Americans have in, including finding love for American culture in cafes and shops. I even found a place that sells twinkies, of all things! Learning the language has been a continued struggle of renewing where I left off from undergrad and missed when I lived in Korea, yet I do surprise myself with how much I am now able to understand and communicate. My colleagues at my school regularly switch between English and German and I have gotten used to the Danglish needed to switch between the languages with ease. I am also taking an Academic German course with the goal of receiving my CEFR B2 by the end of the summer. I feel that I am almost entirely adjusted, joking with my German friends and the other foreign teaching assistants around Vogtland (Plauen’s county) that I need to save up to buy one of these amazing houses. I am currently living in a small apartment on the top floor that overlooks a small garden area and a part of the city. Saxony used to be part of East Germany so a lot of the buildings here are known as DDR-Builds, which my apartment is one, although updated. So far I have been on a good deal of adventures. I recently tried to learn how to ski and as a Southern Gulf Coast guy I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Needless to say, I had a nice visit to the doctor’s office after slamming into a tree.

COVID-19 has limited a lot of social and community life in Germany, with most places now having a “2G” requirement: either vaccinated or recovered. However I was happy to attend Plauen’s 900th year of existence book event and I am now assisting Fulbright Germany and the US Embassy in Berlin with Meet US, touring German schools and presenting on US culture and values. Education in Germany is far more specialized by education type than in the United States. I currently teach at a Gymnasium, which is a type of high school that is focused on university preparation, but there are several other types of schools that all have their role towards the different job and education needs in society. So to be able to travel and see all these types of schools and their amazing students is a fantastic opportunity.

Returning home I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends again and to picking back up in-person classes at my graduate school, American University’s School of International Service. I will certainly miss my time here and I will almost certainly be planning my return as soon as I get back to the US, yet to me, there is something beautiful about chapters of life coming to a close and thanking that time we have to give lessons to carry with us for the rest of our lives. After my final year of graduate school, it is my current intention to apply to Cambridge University’s POLIS PhD program, Gonville and Caius College.

My advice to a future Fulbright student is to keep your life goals certain but be flexible to all the ways life gets you to those goals. 10 year old me could have never imagined being in the position I am now. 20 year old me could have never imagined how I would get to the position I am now. 

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Culture in Germany

Posted by Katie L.

Hello again from the lovely German coast! Although dealing with the pandemic has certainly made my adjustment period here a unique experience, I am happy to be feeling very much at home in both my school and the small city of Cuxhaven.

Though Germany can be seen as a Western society and in this way is quite similar to the U.S. in many ways, various cultural differences can still be spotted. The first difference that always strikes me is the abundance of pedestrian and bike paths. Moving from a place in the U.S. where I am completely dependent on my car to a country where I am without it, I’m grateful that I never have to worry about how I’ll get to work, go to the grocery store, or even travel halfway across the country – Germany’s nod to Eco friendliness has taken care of that. I’ve also been taking the local trains around my state and other parts of the country, which makes travel so much more accessible. Additionally, I appreciate the culture of recycling. Though I recycle at home, things are definitely taken to another level here. My building uses four different color-coded trash containers, not counting the separate-by-color glass containers that the street shares. Becoming aware of such nuanced changes in daily life takes a little time, but will quickly become habit. Other (wonderful) differences include German breakfast, bread and baked goods. Walking into a good bakery or pastry shop can turn any day around. The “Brötchen” (similar to rolls) are breakfast classics that can be paired with any spread, meat or cheese. A cousin of the cinnamon roll and only found in Northern Germany, the “Franzbrötchen” is often associated with the city Hamburg, and is my personal favorite.

My feeling of adjustment is largely due to meeting people with a connection to Fulbright, such as past or present ETA’s, getting to know the teachers at my school, as well as meeting with people from across the county for things like night classes/events and volleyball training. Joining existing groups in a host community is a great way to feel more connected to your placement location and allows for visibility within the community (which is also one of the goals of Fulbright – establishing contact and relationships with members of the host state).

For the first time, Fulbright Germany has launched a mentoring program to pair American Fulbrighters with Germans who have carried out the grant in the U.S.. I’ve been paired with a former German Fulbrighter from Bremen (about 1.5 hours from Cuxhaven) who completed his grant year in Alaska. Programs such as these within the Fulbright community might be of interest for anyone interested in meeting more people of the host country, as well as getting to know how the other side of the scholarship looks.

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

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Returning to Germany

Posted by Lindsey D.

My senior year of high school, I first landed in Germany, with absolutely zero knowledge of the language and only very simplistic and mainly stereotypical ideas about German culture. At that point I never could have imagined that 5 years later I would be returning to spend another full year in a country that I now consider home. This sense of belonging and the host family and friends I still have here are the main reason I chose Germany when applying to Fulbright. Since arriving here in August, I have visited both of my previous host families, neighbors, high school friends, and reunited with many of my UA German House roommates who’ve also moved here. All of them have made this transition much smoother than I could have imagined was possible.

My new coworkers have also welcomed me with open arms. I am working 12 hours a week as an English Teaching Assistant in an Oberschule – a school with students in grades 5-13. I am specifically working with 7th, 8th, and 10th graders, and my role in each class varies based on the students’ and teachers’ requests. In one class, the focus is American culture so I have been able to share my personal experiences with high school and college life, road trips, and also sadly had to burst my students’ bubble and let them know that not all Americans have met someone famous. In another class I have been working on leading discussions and activities to help students continue developing critical thinking skills and recognize and challenge stereotypes they encounter in literature.
This role has been a major shift from my positions in Miami and Tuscaloosa where I was teaching classes independently, but both of those roles helped me feel significantly more confident beginning my job here. The shared responsibility I have in classes here has given me more time to observe and learn from my German coworkers’ teaching, reflect on the differences between American and German schools, and also to dedicate more time to hobbies outside of work, including cooking and aerial silks. Throughout the rest of this year, I am looking forward to continuing to developing relationships with teachers, students, and community members, helping a couple of my students prepare for a foreign exchange program, hopefully setting up an international pen pal program, continuing to improve my German, and so much more!

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Teaching in Schleswig-Holstein

Posted by Michael F.

As an undergraduate at UA, I was lucky enough to go through the German program for four years. During freshman year, our professors introduced us to the Fulbright program and I thought to myself, “That would be a lot of fun, but there’s no way that I could be qualified for that.” After a few years of learning the language and falling in love with German literature/culture, the opportunity presented itself to apply for an ETA position. This time my attitude was much different and I decided to go through the application process. There were a few positions in Europe that would have been a great experience but going to Germany would also help me continue to learn the language. Almost one year after starting the application process, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an ETA in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

As an ETA, I began by sharing about my life in Alabama and the U.S. with students from grades 8-12. Similarly, students shared things about their life in Germany with me. Many of the teachers welcome the assistance of a native English speaker and allow me to help their students prepare for their written and speaking exams. Some of the ways I do this are through small group conversations on a specific topic, “Speed Dating” activities, and mock interviews for students who will soon be applying for jobs. Outside of classes, a few of the English teachers and myself hold an English club. In this club we watch popular American films that highlight history and culture. We play games like paper football to teach about the sport. We even cook food that is common in the U.S.

First and foremost, the faculty within the German program prepared me for this experience by teaching me the language and sharing a few things to add to my interest in German life. While most Germans speak English to some capacity, knowing how to communicate in German helps break down some of the initial barriers that may be placed between an ETA and students, and between an American and Germans in general. Furthermore, my time spent teaching guitar and coaching MMA has helped tremendously in preparing me for being an ETA and navigating everyday life in Germany. As a guitar instructor, I learned how to make teaching/learning fun and found a way to be outgoing as a teacher. Coaching MMA gave me the confidence to be outgoing in daily life while also allowing me to find an amazing community within a gym here in Germany. The overall feeling that I have had since making it here has been gratitude. From coworkers and friends, I have felt overwhelmingly welcomed and am beyond thankful for this opportunity.

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Moin from Cuxhaven

Posted by Katie L.

Moin! This is the most common greeting in Northern Germany, where I am currently living and working as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA). Before I graduated from The University of Alabama in 2019, I majored in International Studies and German and knew I wanted to find ways to later study and/or work abroad. I had also grown up with spoken German at home, so my personal connection to the language was the deciding factor in choosing a German-speaking country as a future work/study goal. Through extracurriculars on campus, I learned about the Fulbright Grant and how I could choose to apply to study, teach, or participate in research, among other options, abroad. Because I will likely continue to teach throughout my career and hope to gain more (international) experience in the classroom, I chose the ETA track of the Fulbright application.

I was thrilled to be accepted to the grant program, and am now living in Cuxhaven, Germany and working with language faculty at the Berufsbildende Schulen Cuxhaven (or “BBS” for short). Cuxhaven is a small city on the North Sea in the state of Lower Saxony. Because of its location on the North Sea, as well as the mouth of the Elbe River, the city attracts many tourists each year. (I am definitely taking advantage of the walk to the beach!) The surrounding waters are home to the Wadden Sea (oder ,,Wattenmeer” im Deutschen), an area of shallow water with tidal flats. Walking to one of the small nearby islands during low tide is on my to-do list for this year!

As I transitioned from working in higher education (I am in the middle of an M.A. in German Studies at UA) to a secondary school, I felt fairly prepared after having taught my own language course in a previous semester at UA; however, it still took a bit of time to get used to the shift in learning goals, the different instructional styles of the teachers I support, and the German educational system in general. Fortunately, two “mentor teachers” have offered so much support during my transition to Germany and the new job.

Although it was a bit of “information-overload” during my first days, I have also fallen into a rhythm and schedule that I am really enjoying. My school is a vocational school with a variety of focuses, including traditional study as well as culinary, technical, and social work tracks of study. I am working in both German and English classrooms with teenagers and young adults. In addition to working in the classroom 3-4 days each week, I also assist with program/school-wide events such as “Europe Days” that promote global understanding and interest.

When I’m not in the school, I’m exploring more of Cuxhaven and the surrounding area, taking a class at the local “Volkshochschule,” or playing volleyball with a local club team.

I’m excited to continue to get to know my students and community!

Liebe Grüße aus Cuxhaven

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Fun in the Canary Islands

Posted by Logan F.

In my sophomore year of college, I fell in love with the Spanish language. Before, I saw it more as a useful skill to be able to better understand patients down the line in the medical field. However, during a Beyond Bama service-learning trip to Nicaragua, I found that Spanish wasn’t all conjugations and vocabulary- it was a gateway to another world. Spanish was the key to not only learn about real people and their histories, but it was a way to connect and form relationships. I was amazed at how easy it was to bond over food or traditions when I put myself in situations in which I couldn’t use English. This love for Spanish and enthusiasm for cultural exchange were my main reasons for applying to Fulbright.

Once I narrowed down my options to Spanish-speaking countries only, it was an easy decision to decide to apply for Spain’s Fulbright program. I already had an understanding of life in Spain because of a summer study abroad program in Madrid. Visiting museums and parks all over the city, meeting Spanish college students, and finally gaining confidence in my Spanish abilities helped to make the experience incredible. I knew Fulbright would be immersive in a completely different way, but I couldn’t wait to return.

Little did I know how different of an experience serving as an English Teaching Assistant in the Canary Islands would be! As an ETA, I spend 16 hours each week teaching classes, and 2 hours coordinating with other teachers. I work at a primary school, but I spend time only with grades 3-6. After school, I’m exploring new hobbies, like surfing, hiking, and running. I’m still trying to find the best tortilla in Las Palmas, and I’ve become obsessed with bocadillos and fresh squeezed zumo de naranja. In my free time, I’m also working on my side project. Originally, I had hoped to develop a service-learning curriculum partnering with a nonprofit, but volunteering is much harder than I expected here, especially with a group of elementary students. Instead, I’m searching for a volunteering site and plan to include lessons where students will act out different volunteering scenarios and can learn how they can get involved in their local community.

Coming into this experience, I was feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I knew that all of my involvement had helped me to feel more ready for my Fulbright year, but nothing compares to walking into a new school on the first day, making friends in a new country, or the challenges that accompany everyday life when living somewhere unfamiliar. Add in an actively erupting volcano, and welcome to las Islas Canarias! I had mentored various ages of students throughout college- from programs like READ Alabama with first graders, Tuscaloosa’s One Place and Discovery Buddies with middle schoolers, the Spanish LIFT program with high schoolers, and even college students through UA’s ELL program. I also loved volunteering as a Spanish interpreter at Maude Whatley Health Clinic. After college, I spent a year working for a nonprofit in Greensboro, AL called Project Horseshoe Farm where I got even more experience mentoring and developing classroom materials, building relationships, and being outside of my comfort zone. Upon arriving in Gran Canaria, I realized I have so much to learn. But I cannot wait to experience everything.

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ETA Life in Budapest

Living in Bulgaria as a Fulbright scholar has been an immense gift. Whether it is teaching my 12th grade business English students about economics and teamwork or working with 8th grade students on poetry, each day is a new challenge and experience. The country has welcomed me with open arms, a bitter winter, and phenomenal food. Some of my highlights have been coaching a Speech and Debate team, weekly folk dancing lessons, and being a part of the Fulbright community in Bulgaria. It is an honor to be a part of a community with so many incredibly intelligent and world-changing individuals.


Posted by Erica B.

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A Note on the Application


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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)

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