Giving an overview of what it’s like being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) is like trying to sum up a year in only 800 words.
Actually, giving an overview of the Fulbright ETA program is exactly like that. Many people have reached out to me over the last few weeks asking to hear about my Fulbright fellowship experience, so I thought I’d write this post as a way to get the conversation started. From being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, I’ve learned that most of the time when people ask for questions…you don’t even know what you don’t know.
So I’m here to say, here’s what you don’t know. ?
One year in 800 words will be a challenge, but I’m always up for one, and with this bit of space carved out in blogosphere, I know that I can also write a follow up post or two (or ten or a hundred).
Encouraging others to become a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant
As a Fulbright scholar, I can say without a doubt that the Fulbright program changed my life. The journey to apply and receive a Fulbright and the journey of actually moving abroad to teach English in Europe as a Fulbright grantee were some of the most challenging times of my life. But I can also say without a doubt that I learned so much. I wouldn’t change being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for anything.
With that being said, I encourage people to pursue programs like the Fulbright, to open up their worlds, to experience new places, and to increase their knowledge.
If I can be a part of their journey to pursue a Fulbright, I am so honored. It is my way of giving back to the program that changed my life. Without any further ado, here’s an overview of my experience as a Fulbright ETA in Andorra.
Understanding Fulbright Fellowships
Before I dive into my specific experience as a Fulbright ETA, I have to preface this by saying that my experience is by no means a representation of all Fulbright ETA programs. The Fulbright program is actually comprised of many smaller programs.
You can find out more about the different types of Fulbright fellowships here (teaching english, researching, studying for a masters).
Each country has a Fulbright Commission that creates a specific, tailored Fulbright program for their country. They come up with the guidelines for the program, the requirements for their grantees, and they assign their grantees to a school or multiple schools where they will teach.
That being said, each Fulbright ETA grant will look a little different because each country has different requirements and expectations. Each commission sets different standards, and each school will operate differently.
Finding Information about Fulbright ETA for each country
So the best way to get a good idea of what a Fulbright ETA will be like is to first, read the description and requirements for the grant on the Fulbright website. The description will usually tell you your role in the classroom (assistant teacher, co-teacher, main teacher), the type of schools where you may teach (primary, secondary, university, bilingual, public, private, etc), and the age of the students at those schools.
Second, I suggest you reach out to people who have done a Fulbright ETA in the countries where you want to teach English. They’ll give you the best insights into what it is like to do an ETA in their country.
When you apply for the Fulbright, you can only apply to one country. So do your research and make sure you pick the best one that fits your skills and your goals. More information about the Fulbright ETA application and Fulbright timeline here.
Being an Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Andorra
In Andorra, Fulbright English Teaching Assistants teach in the secondary schools, the high school, and the technical college. We are co-teachers, doing specialized lessons with half of the class while the other half of the class remains with the normal teacher.
Our focus is on oral communication and teaching about American culture, which basically means our lessons emphasize oral comprehension and speaking. Luckily, we don’t have to worry so much about the grammar rules. ?
For me, the English teachers at the school provided the framework for the lessons that I led with the students. Usually, there was a certain topic or skill that the kids were currently working on in class, and I would reinforce that skill in an oral lesson.
At other times, the teachers would give me the liberty to come up with my own lesson for the class. I really enjoyed those lessons because I could really be creative with my lesson plans, come up with fun games or activities, or create my own materials. Often, I would recreate my favorite activities from many years of being a student in French class.
Outside of the normal class time, I would also assist the teacher in grading oral presentations or act out a role in a scenario for an oral exam. However, overall, I wasn’t responsible for grading the student’s work though I would often have say in their grade for oral exams.
Learn more about my Fulbright Andorra ETA Experience in my interview with ProFellow.
Challenges and Rewards as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant
So those are the hard logistics of a year being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. The challenges were trying to adapt to an entirely new school system, motivate kids who were completely uninterested in English, and establishing a good working dynamic with my co-teachers.
But the rewards were also astounding. I loved being creative as I came up with lesson plans for my students, and despite their laziness, the students did make me laugh a lot. I learned a lot about my own strengths and weakness and came out of the experience as a more confident, stronger person overall.
You can see my full list of benefits of working abroad and benefits of living abroad here. These two posts also cover benefits of studying abroad.
As I mentioned before, I love talking about my Fulbright experiences. There will certainly be lots of posts to come about my experiences as a Fulbrighter and what God taught me during my year abroad in the beautiful, co-principality of Andorra . (Also a quick video about Andorra, especially if you’re wondering, “where’s Andorra?”) Questions about the Fulbright ETA application process? See my end-to-end experience of doing the Fulbright application in this post.
If you’re pursing a Fulbright and have any specific questions, leave me a comment below about what you’d like to know. You can also contact me through mycontact page.
Until then, ciao!
Final Note: This site “Kara J Lovett Co.” is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author “Kara J Lovett” and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.
2 thoughts on “Being a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant”
Thanks for sharing your experiences of teaching abroad! This is definitely what I want to do when I graduate with my English degree this spring. So cool how God is using you to help others in far-off places ???
I’m always happy to share about this life-changing experience! Thank you for reading, Josie, and wishing the best for you as the semester ends. Cheering for you even if there’s no official graduation event. ?