“The main reason for my interest in the Fulbright program, was my passion for travel and cross-cultural learning. I had been working in the political sphere for a couple years and was looking for opportunities where I could spend a significant amount of time living abroad while pursuing personal aspirations. I applied for an ETA because I had volunteered teaching English in Peru for three months the previous year and I knew I wanted to teach English again. The English Teaching Assistant grant, which places Fulbrighters in schools, is a great opportunity for Americans to teach abroad and really become part of the academic structure of the school and part of the school community.
The Fulbright program is very [sic] much oriented towards inter-cultural exchange. I was placed as a teacher in a secondary school in Kostelec and Orlici, a town of 4,000 in the Czech Republic. As the only American to ever teach at the school, and to ever live in this town, I had the opportunity to become part of the community while changing often skewed perceptions about Americans. In addition to teaching at the school, I volunteered teaching two English courses at the University of Hradec Kralove, which was a university in a city about a half hour from where I was living.
While living in the Czech Republic, I took advantage of all the opportunities presented to me. The teachers at the school often invited me to events in their communities and to spend time with their families. The school invited me to everything; I went class parties, school concerts and was a chaperone for a week long ski trip in the mountains. The highlights of my entire year abroad was at the Maturita balls, which are school formals that are basically a combination of graduation and prom for each of the senior classes. In addition to these experiences with my school, I was able to travel extensively in the Czech Republic and throughout Europe, including trips to Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland and Hungary. I also learned Czech and read over 20 books.
I’m currently a grad student, working towards a Masters’ in International Educational Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. I’m graduating in January of 2016 and will then go on to work in an educational capacity for an NGO, government or higher education institution.
Advice I would give a current student applying- spend time reading about what each country is looking for in their Fulbright applicants and read about the actual country you are applying to. I met people in other European countries who were having completely different experiences than we were in the Czech Republic. Also try and contact people who are currently doing a Fulbright in the country you want to apply to, they can be quite helpful. Some of them even stay in the country after their grant and can be a contact for you while your abroad.”