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The World of the Fulbright Program for Teaching English Abroad

The World of the Fulbright Program for Teaching English Abroad | ITTT | TEFL Blog

The Fulbright program is a great way to travel abroad and work as an English language teacher in an exciting new country. It allows you to experience a new culture, meet lots of new people and discover something new about yourself. This article will go over what Fulbright is, their English teaching program, and how to apply to Fulbright in this blog post.

Why I chose the Fulbright Experience

My name is Lulu, and I am currently a Fulbright recipient in South Korea for the next year (2021). A little about me: I was originally born in China but was adopted into a USA family. I grew up knowing I wanted to become a doctor and went to college in the Midwest and majored in Nutritional Science Pre-Med. Initially going into college and throughout most of college, I thought I would go directly into medical school after graduating.

However, I decided to take a detour in my pursuit of medicine by taking a break from academics. During my year off, I decided to apply for Fulbright because I did not feel ready for medical school and wanted to try something completely different and outside of my comfort zone.

What is Fulbright?

To start, during my junior year of college, I had never heard of the Fulbright program. I first learned about Fulbright through a friend that received a Fulbright Scholarship to Malaysia. While my friend was in Malaysia during her Fulbright grant, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit her. I was able to see what she did and what the Fulbright program was.

In its most simplistic form, the Fulbright program is a national program held by the United States’ States Department. In essence, there are three main types of Fulbright grants: English Teaching Assistant (ETA), Open/Research, or Graduate Studies. It provides opportunities for any American to teach English abroad, do research abroad, or obtain a master’s or Ph.D. degree abroad. All expenses are paid for, and it provides a stipend during the grant year.

What is Fulbright ETA?

I applied for the Fulbright grant as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in South Korea. Since my Fulbright grant is an ETA grant, this is what I will mainly focus on. However, keep in mind that the Fulbright Program has grants for any professional level, whether you just graduated from college or have been in your field of studies for several years.

The Fulbright ETA grant allows an American to teach English in a foreign country for a certain amount of time, typically one year. The number of grants available is dependent on the country, and some countries do get more applicants than others. I specifically applied to South Korea, but there are hundreds of countries that you could apply to. I did not know much about South Korea but knew I wanted to be in an East-Asian country. I had never traveled to South Korea, but within the past couple of years, I saw their social impact on the Western Cultures. I thought it was so fascinating that a country had so much influence in such a social way.

I loved that as an ETA, you are teaching English to a student as their second language, but you are also there to teach American culture. In return, you get to live and learn about the culture of the country you are in and build relationships within the local community as well.

Why Apply?

I truly recommend applying for the Fulbright program as it can be a valuable and once-in-a-lifetime experience. I do not hold a degree or have any experience with teaching, nor do I plan on becoming a teacher; however, I feel there are a lot of aspects to teaching that I can carry over to my career field of medicine.

Many of the ETAs I know have some type of background in teaching or international relations, but I am neither. What made me qualified to teach English to foreign students? Having been adopted at the age of six with no previous English language knowledge, I had to learn English and attended first grade within eight months of coming into the United States. I took English Second Language (ESL) classes all throughout elementary school but was able to move up to the advanced English classes later in my junior/high school years.

During college, I studied abroad in Spain with no previous Spanish knowledge. I lived in a Spanish homestay where my host family did not speak English, and I did not speak Spanish. At first, it was hard to communicate with my host family, but over time, I learned some Spanish and was able to get by. I feel these experiences have provided me knowledge in which I can help other students trying to learn a new language.

If you are interested in applying, here are some details. The application cycle is one year before the actual grant date. For example, my year was considered the Fulbright 2020-2021 year. When I applied, the applications opened in April 2019, and the due date was October 2019, but the grant date did not start until January 2021. Each country’s grant start date is different so pay attention to that, but everyone has the same application due date no matter what country you applied to.

There are some requirements when applying for the Fulbright grant, but here are the basic 3.

  1. Must be a citizen of the United States of America.
  2. Must have a bachelor’s degree by the time the grant starts (you can apply while still in undergraduate school, but you must have the bachelor’s degree by the time the grant starts).
  3. This is dependent on the country, but you must meet the language requirements of the country. South Korea did not have a language requirement, but some countries do (i.e., Germany, Spain, etc.)

Are you ready for the Fulbright Experience?

I wanted to experience and travel to other countries before medical school and thought Fulbright could broaden my knowledge of other cultures/societies while also providing skill sets I could use during my medical career.

Outside of academics, I truly enjoy boxing, hiking, traveling, and photography. I hope during my time in South Korea, I can expand more on my hobbies as well.

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