Over the course of the last five months, I have been working on my Fulbright application. The Fulbright US Student Program, funded by the U.S. State Department, is aimed at fostering “bilateral relationships in which citizens and governments of other countries work with the U.S. to set joint priorities and shape the program to meet shared needs.” Put another way, the program allows for college students, mainly undergraduate students, to conduct research or teach English in another country. This teaching grant is referred to as an English Teaching Assistantship, or an ETA.
As an educator, I was drawn to the opportunity to teach English abroad. I am a strong believer that we are all global citizens and that our diverse cultures make humanity a beautiful species. If awarded an ETA, the Fulbright Scholar Program will provide me with experiences and knowledge I will utilize for the rest of my life. This is one of my greatest draws to the program: my experience as an ETA directly correlates with my life afterwards. As a classroom teacher, I will be able to draw on my experiences and learned strategies in my own classrooms. Not only will this make me a strong educator, it will also make my students stronger learners.
I began to research the program outlines of the different host countries around the world. As was briefly mentioned above, each host country determines both the type of grant(s) and the overall number of grants to be awarded in their country. After a month or so of research, I happened upon Malaysia’s program description. After reading their description, I stopped my search and began my application to teach English in Malaysia.
The Malaysia placement drew me in for a number of reasons. While my list could go on forever, I will describe a few of my strongest connections with the program:
- First and foremost, the assistantship description indicated the country’s need for students to work with Primary and Secondary students. Often times, ETA winners work with college-aged citizens to help strengthen their conversational and academic English. In Malaysia, I would be working with much younger students. As an elementary education major, this was right up my alley.
- As an ETA in Malaysia, I would spend 10 months living in rural villages teaching in boarding schools. As teachers, we spend so much of our time attempting to establish strong classroom communities. A safe and friendly learning environment often times equates to the greatest learning. Living with my students in Malaysia will provide me with a unique opportunity to get to know them both in and out of the classroom. This constant interaction will allow me to establish extremely strong relationships unlike those I would have in an “Americanized” learning environment.
- The Malaysian ETA program requires 15-20 hours of in-class contact hours as well as 5-10 hours of out-of-class contact hours. This provides yet another opportunity for strong connections and relationships with my students. What a great way to experience and learn your students’ greatest passions outside of the classroom!
- While researching the education in Malaysia, it was evident that the country has revitalized their schools. Malaysia’s rededication to their education system and to their teachers is another strong pull for me as a future classroom teacher. I am a strong believer that successful students are the result of successful teachers. But successful classroom teachers are the result of an invested and dedicated education system.
- Finally, I was drawn to Malaysia because of my familiarity with the region. My global travels have allowed me to visit Japan and I am eager to revisit the Asia. While I cannot directly compare the two, my experiences in Asia are some of my fondest to date.
I submitted my application today, almost exactly one month before the national online deadline of October, 15th. While the process is now out of my control, I can help but imagine what my experience will be like if I am awarded an ETA. What will my school by like? What will my students be like? How will my teaching benefit from this experience? But alas, I really cannot say. I won’t know until I set foot in Malaysia in January of 2015. But that is what makes this program so powerful: the relative unknown allows for the teacher to make the most out of their own experience. There is no scripted or prescribed formula. Every experience is different. But so too is teaching in the United States. In this sense then, my preparation won’t be that much different. Sure my physical circumstances will vary, but my mental approach won’t. And that is the beauty of teaching.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to keep you updated on the progress of my application throughout the next couple of months. Enjoy this quote as you head out for the day:
“The differences between people need not act as barriers that wound, harm and drive us apart. Rather, these very differences among cultures and civilizations should be valued as manifestations of the richness of our shared creativity.” – Unknown