Prior to the summer of 2018, I had never heard of the Fulbright program. I learned about Fulbright through my sister's friend (we shall call her Jane). Jane received a Fulbright scholarship to Malaysia as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA). My sister and I ended up traveling throughout Asia during the summer of 2018 and one of the countries we visited was Malaysia. We were able to visit Jane while she was amid her Fulbright program. Throughout the visit, Jane introduced us to her Malay co-teachers and community. She also told us what she did as an ETA and talked about how much she loved being part of the Fulbright program and teaching her students. I thought it was cool how she was able to connect and teach to her community/students while also learning and experiencing the Malaysian culture.
During this trip, it made me really think about what I wanted to do after graduating from Iowa State University. I have always thought I would graduate college then directly apply and attend medical school after undergrad, but things changed. During the end of junior/beginning of senior year, I felt burnt-out from the academics and loss motivation for school. This is not a great feeling when I have four more years of medical school ahead of me. After deeply thinking about my future, I decided to take a year off after graduation and evaluate my life plans. During the year off, I moved back home and started working as a medical scribe. I thought about applying for Fulbright, but I wasn't serious about it because I never in a million years thought I would receive the scholarship. I did not think I had/met the qualifications to even apply and did not know what I could offer to Fulbright. I was not an education major, English major, international studies major, child development major or the country that I apply to major. I was a nutritional science: pre-med major which does not translate well when applying for an international English teaching program. I tutored students throughout high school and college but never in a classroom setting and never had formal teaching experience. I also have never handled a group of kids. So why did I decide to apply for Fulbright? Honestly, I think a big part of me was not ready for medical school and wanted to experience something extremely outside of my comfort zone to grow and become more independent before I go into medical school.
As you can tell, I did apply for the Fulbright program as an ETA. I decided to postpone my medical journey to take a chance to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to live abroad, make international connections/memories and try something I have never done before (teach a classroom full of elementary students).
***For those that do not know what the Fulbright program is, here is a brief description from the Fulbright website.
"The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. During their grants, Fulbrighters will meet, work, live with and learn from the people of the host country, sharing daily experiences. The program facilitates cultural exchange through direct interaction on an individual basis in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks, allowing the grantee to gain an appreciation of others’ viewpoints and beliefs, the way they do things, and the way they think. Through engagement in the community, the individual will interact with their hosts on a one-to-one basis in an atmosphere of openness, academic integrity, and intellectual freedom, thereby promoting mutual understanding."
***If you are reading this and are considering or thinking about wanting to do Fulbright, APPLY. Even if you do not think you have a shot, still apply. I truly did not think I had a chance but look at me now :). You may have skills, experiences, and knowledge that you do not think is valuable, but the Fulbright committee does.