Fulbright Application season is upon us, and with over 400,000 grantees in over 155 countries since its founding in 1946, the Fulbright Program is a highly-sought after experience for recent graduates, graduate students, professionals, and scholars. One of the most popular Fulbright programs is the English Teaching Assistant Award, also known as the Fulbright ETA, which allows the grantee to teach English in the country of their choice. Through teaching and living in a new country, Fulbright ETAs gain a deeper understanding of differing cultures and lifestyles and help create a more peaceful society. This experience is unlike any other, and it has the potential to shape your career. Because of this, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program is highly competitive.
Over the years, ProFellow has interviewed many Fulbright ETA alums who have shared their Fulbright experience and application tips to inspire and assist future applicants. Read on to learn 5 Top Tips for your Fulbright ETA application from former Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grantees!
Want insider strategies for your Fulbright ETA application? Purchase the Fulbright Applicant Mastermind workshop by ProFellow Founder and Fulbright Award Winner, Dr. Vicki Johnson.
1. Give yourself time
Kara Jones, a 2018-2019 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to Andorra, notes how essential it is to start your application early:
“When writing my application, I spent extensive time with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarly Programs on campus to edit and refine my essays. After my application was submitted, I attended a campus interview where a language expert, country expert, and subject matter expert (English teacher) asked me questions about my intentions, my experiences, and my understanding of Andorra geopolitics. Part of the interview was conducted in French to test my language ability. Give yourself time to write the application essays and answers. My essays went through six complete rewrites before I submitted the final one. I recommend starting the summer before the application deadline to give you ample time to make revisions.”
Tiffany Brown, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Colombia, reflects on her application experience with a similar sentiment:
“Looking back, I would definitely recommend starting over the summer. Having several months to slow down and really think about what you want to write in these statements is certainly the better option. With that said, it can be done in less time.”
2. Emphasize your ability to teach
“Be able to speak to specific examples of your past successes in teaching. As a Fulbright ETA, the core of your grant is in the name: English teaching. A taste for adventure and a love for travel is important for a Fulbright ETA, but these things pale in comparison to your job description: you are a teacher. Think about the types of positions offered with the ETA grant you’re applying for, and think about the specific moments that prepared you to succeed as an ETA. If you have traditional classroom experience, be ready to highlight creative problem-solving on the fly, an innovative lesson plan, or how you encouraged a difficult student. If you don’t have traditional classroom experience (I did not), think about times when you tutored, gave private lessons (I emphasized my experience as a piano teacher!), or helped an ESL student with a paper–anything that specifically supports the idea that you will be successful as a teacher. Also, be able to share what you find hardest and what you enjoy the most about teaching.”
She also suggests being able to speak to specific examples of your future successes. What will you bring to the program?
3. Be Willing To Adjust
Magaly Cabrera-Ortiz, a Fulbright ETA to the Czech Republic, gives her advice on flexibility:
“My last most significant piece of advice is to be proactive, advocate for yourself, and remember who you are. Change can be a good thing, even if you change schools or communities. It will be a great experience! As your Maturita students begin graduating, you will realize the challenges you faced were worth it. Believing in each student and smiling goes a long way toward students feeling more confident speaking English or empowered that their voices matter. Stay open-minded and embrace each moment.”
Samuel Hickson, a Fulbright ETA to Brazil, says the same:
“The main tip I would give to another prospective Fulbright ETA would be that Fulbright is not traditionally looking for ESL professionals. They’re looking for individuals that have proven that they can adapt quickly to new and challenging situations. My two co-ETAs in Imperatriz are some of the most resilient people I know; this is a factor the decision-making team considers when choosing future ETAs.”
4. Be Unapologetically You
Interviewers want to know who you are– not just what you’ve done. Tiffany Brown suggests:
“Write a compelling story. Reviewers don’t need to see you rattling off all of your accomplishments in college. That’s what the rest of your application is for. Grab their attention with the first line of your essay and keep it!”
Connie Vilomar notes the importance of being confident in yourself:
“It might sound generic, but being yourself and letting your passion and achievements come through all over your application helps…. Make it a fun application, and believe in your life story. Believe in the potential you bring to your host country as a Fulbright fellow without imposition; display your ability and desire to learn and assimilate the culture in a way that benefits both you and the host country.”
5. Don’t Get Discouraged
Kara Jones also had some important advice about the rigorous editing process involved with applications:
“Don’t give up in the face of discouragement. As someone who had to write more than six drafts of her Fulbright application, I faced discouragement several times. Just remember that with each rendition, you are getting closer to submitting an application that puts your best foot forward.”
Keep your head up, and remember that it will all be worth it in the end. This is a potentially life-changing experience, so don’t let it pass you by!
Be sure to read the full interviews with each of the above alumni– they’re full of helpful information for any Fulbright candidate. We’ve also got tons of other Fulbright articles for you to check out, so if you found these tips helpful, be sure to check them out!
Planning to apply to a Fulbright? You may also be interested to read How to Choose a Fulbright Host Country: Advice from Two Former Fulbrighters.
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