Once a month, we’re going to talk about awesome/weird/adventurous jobs that you (maybe) didn’t even know existed and talk to people who have done them. If you’re sick of your current gig, get to applying! You can read about other awesome jobs here.
How impressive would it be to add ‘Fulbright’ to your resume? Incredibly impressive. There are multiple Fulbright programs, but the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program is a great fit for recent grads.
Teaching assistants are usually placed outside of capitol cities (so, no Paris for you), assist English teachers and act as cultural representatives of sorts. When you apply for a position, you can only apply to one country (rather than applying to the program, being accepted and then choosing a country) so you’re more likely to get a posting if you choose a less popular locale. Again, maybe not Paris.
In order to apply for the program you must be a US citizen, have a BA and be proficient in the language of your proposed host country.
Jennifer did a Fulbright teaching assistantship in Germany and was kind enough to share her insights with us.
Can you tell us about your Fulbright experience?
I was placed in a very rural area of Germany right outside of Nuremberg, in the state of Bavaria.
Because I received the ETA (English Teaching Assistantship) grant as opposed to the Research Grant, my grant began in September of 2010 and ended in June of 2011. I think the terms of the research grant are different, though.
My duties were to teach English 12 hours a week. My hours were split between two schools; a Gymnasium and a Hauptschule. Part of the grant stipulates that the grantee is never to teach alone but should always assist. This was not the case at my schools – the teachers chose to leave me alone with the students quite frequently.
I was told by Fulbright that if this happened I should object, but I honestly didn’t mind. In some instances, I felt I reached the kids better when their “normal” teacher wasn’t around; they seemed to let their guard down and open up. Another stipulation of the grant prevented me from issuing grades; I was there only to teach and represent my country and culture. I’m sure this played a role in their being open with me, as they never had to fear that I’d punish their English mistakes with low marks.
Why did you decide to take part in the Fulbright?
I studied abroad at the University of Salzburg in 2009. Upon returning home, I missed Europe so much, longed for the adventure of constant travel, had German language withdrawals, etc. I decided that I needed to return to Europe as soon as possible!
Can you tell us about the application process?
The application process was a bit hellish. I started the process in July 2009 and I received word that I’d been given a grant on March 31, 2010. There are many different steps in the application process; the grantee must advance past the university level, then the national level, then the international level. Because of the multiple deadlines, I worked on my application for nine months straight. There were interviews, language evaluations, grant proposals and personal statements. I was constantly reviewing, preparing, editing, re-writing.
How did you prepare for your Fulbright posting?
I didn’t have much time to prepare for my posting because I spent the four months prior in Vienna interning with the US Embassy. Had I been at home in the US like the majority of the other “Fulbrighters,” I would have been more focused on preparing for my posting — like finding housing, making contacts in my area. In hindsight, that would have made the first months of my grant much easier.
Can you tell us about an average day in the life of a Fulbright-er?
For all the stress that goes into applying for a Fulbright grant, the life of a Fulbrighter is shockingly low-key. Since I was only required to work 12 hours a week, my work week consisted of four hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I had so much free time to travel and invest in community activities, which is Fulbright’s objective in mandating we work so few hours.
How much money are you earning?
I earned 800 euro a month from Fulbright, which is very low, but considering how little I worked, I suppose it’s fair. I also tutored on the side for additional income.
What were the biggest challenges about your experience?
Fulbright does not hold your hand as you walk through this process. This has its advantages and disadvantages. I found it beneficial because I was forced to take complete responsibility for myself and my actions and live completely independently. But when it came to finding housing, making friends, dealing with everyday struggles/cultural differences/language barriers, I often found it very difficult to manage on my own.
What did you take away from your experience?
I gained a lot of confidence and matured in ways I had not predicted. During the first half of my grant, for instance, I was in a very stressful living situation that brought me to tears on a regular basis. At home, I would have called my parents and relied on them to solve the problem but living in Germany, I was forced to resolve my own conflicts without the help of my parents.
In the second half of my grant, after a very peculiar health problem, I was hospitalized for a week. Had I been in a hospital in the US, my parents and siblings would have been by my side. However, dealing with these issues on my own – communicating with the doctors in a foreign language, resolving financial disputes with the insurance company – really helped me mature. I learned that I can take care of myself. I also learned that my parents’ help and support is invaluable and I’ll never take it for granted again!
Who would be a good fit for Fulbright?
Someone who is resilient. Not to say that the life of a Fulbrighter is extremely taxing — because, as I said, it’s really quite easy, work-wise. But the challenges you face when it comes to assimilating into a foreign culture and surviving on your own can be very exhausting.
Also: outgoing. Because you’re so isolated as a Fulbrighter, it’s absolutely essential that you step out of your comfort zone and make friends. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time in isolation and will get lonely.
Official Fulbright ETA website // De-Mystifying Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship //27 FAQS // The Grad Cafe (an online forum for people applying to the ETA program) // Hints for writing Fulbright application essays
Have any of you guys done a Fulbright? If you have, leave your suggestions in the comments!