I was fortunate enough to be granted a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) pre-Covid, and fulfilled my 9-month term in 2019, just months before everything began shutting down. So, in this brief blog post I want to look back on the application process, my Fulbright in-country experience, and how it prepared me for Heller.
This next sentence will make a lot more sense if you have already read my Scuba-Diving blog post – but if you have not had the chance, I encourage you to now! So, the very day I had completed my Scuba Diving licensure in Honduras, I was relaxing with friends on a remote beach with very limited wifi. I walked towards the small make-shift restaurant and haphazardly refreshed the inbox on my phone. As my eyes adjusted from the sunlight I realized I had an email from the Fulbright Commission. I read, then reread the email just to make sure. Well, I’ll be darned! Looks like I’m movin’ to Brazil!
My surprise stemmed from three thought processes: 1. I had already applied for a “special” Fulbright round for Brazil that had opened the summer prior and was not accepted 2. The odds of being accepted were still not in my favor 3. I had truthfully forgotten, as I had submitted the application the September prior (and it was now April). I had almost completely written off any hope of getting a Fulbright.
So, let’s talk about the application process that even got me to that point. As I said, I applied twice (as I was rejected the first time). The application itself is not unlike a college application, but the hardest part is most certainly the personal statements and/or statement grant of purpose. Both of these short essays had to be less than one page, but I must have edited mine (for both applications) 10-15 times with about 5 sets of eyes reviewing my revisions. All of that to say, begin early on your application and find people who you trust to help you edit and revise.
Once it commenced, my scholarship sent me to Brazil. As there were a number of potential universities in which I could be placed, I had to wait until a few months prior to finding out where within Brazil I would be heading. Tres Lagoas, Mato Grosso do Sul was where they sent me and three other ETAs. Geographically speaking, I was extremely close to the border of Paraguay, and was next to the Pentanal. My job as an English Teaching Assistant meant I worked closely with my program manager, who was an English professor. Classes were mostly held in the evenings, so during the day I would involve myself with the community as much as possible by going to Crossfit and Muay Thai classes, getting coffee with my students and friends, volunteering, and walking around downtown. Then, in the evenings I worked alongside my program manager to help him where needed in class. I ended up working around 10 hours each week as an ETA, then the rest of my time was mine to hold informal community English classes or fill as I would like.
I would be happy to expound more on my experience, both the pros and cons, to anyone who is interested. But, in the spirit of brevity, I will continue along. So, Fulbright prepared me for Heller in a number of ways. First, it helped me write strong applications because, as I said, I had revised my Fulbright apps many times. Fulbright has also added richly to my internal experience bank, so I am able to relate and speak up on specific subject matters within my classes my confidently. Overall my experience with Fulbright was one I deeply treasure, and be it Peace Corp, AmeriCorp, Fulbright, or any other organization, having the ability to invest in something bigger than yourself and enjoy life while doing it is always an investment worth pursuing.