Monday, July 27, 2009

De-Mystifying Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETA), By Jody Dudderar, Assistant Director, Fulbright U.S. Student Program

The Fulbright Program has offered opportunities for U.S. students to serve as English teachers and teaching assistants at schools, colleges and universities abroad for many years. In recent years, the number of countries offering ETA programs has grown from just a handful to 43 in the current 2010-11 competition.

Currently, ETA positions are available in all world regions and additional countries have been added annually.

Since you may only apply to one country and one program, it is important to select carefully based on your educational and career goals, academic background and preparation, language proficiency, and geographic interests.

For example, ETAs in South Korea, Indonesia, and India are placed in elementary and middle/secondary schools and knowledge of the host country language at the time of application is not required. However, ETAs in South America and Mexico usually will be working with university and adult students and must have proficiency in the host country language. Program placements and language pre-requisites for the countries in Europe vary widely. Applicants are advised to read the Country Summaries carefully to learn about the nature of each program and any specific requirements. You should make certain that your Statement of Grant Purpose very clearly states why you have chosen a particular program and country, how your experience, training and skills match the type of placement in the country, and what you expect to contribute to and take away from an ETA experience.

Most ETA programs expect that grantees will engage in supplementary activities such as an independent academic, vocational, or community service project. You should briefly describe what you would like to do in the Statement of Grant Purpose. Because applicants will not know exactly where they will be located, this is not expected to be detailed. Applicants also should not make any location-specific plans for ancillary project. You simply need to indicate the activity or activities that you intend to pursue outside of the ETA responsibilities and why you have chosen this activity or these activities for the country to which you are applying.

Since you are only allowed one page for the Statement of Grant Purpose, you may wish to carry over some description of your supplementary activity or your personal interests in choosing an ETA Grant or a particular country to your Personal Statement. The combination of the two statements should be designed to cover all areas indicated above and any other relative information about you and the contributions that you can make as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

Finally, a few tips about applying for an English Teaching Assistantship:

Beware of the Competition Statistics

Some ETA programs are brand new and therefore may not have received many applications or much publicity in the previous year. In addition, the number of applications for ETA programs overall has doubled in the last two years, a reflection of the growth in the number of countries participating. Given this, you can not reliably predict the number of applications for this competition based on last year's numbers.

Supplementary Activities

If you have a very specific proposal for study or research, you may wish to consider the study/research grant option, since in the ETA program you will not be able to choose where you will be placed, nor will you have enough time outside of the classroom to carry out extensive research. Furthermore, successful ETA's are those who value the experience of working in an educational environment first and foremost.

Prior experience or training in teaching

Experience or training in teaching may be required or strongly preferred in some countries and not particularly relevant in others. Read the Participating Country Summaries and speak to an IIE Program Manager when in doubt.

Extensive experience or training in teaching

Remember, this is a student program. For some country programs, persons with university-level teaching experience or more than four years of teaching in schools, as well as persons who have completed a master's degree in TESOL or a related field may be overqualified. In other cases, those with teaching experience are preferred. You may not fit perfectly the criteria of the country program to which you would like to apply, however, if you have specific reasons why you feel you would benefit from an ETA grant to that country then be sure to express this clearly in your Statement of Grant Purpose. Contact an IIE Program Manager if you have questions. We would encourage you to consider applying to those countries where your qualifications best match the requirements.

Feedback from current ETAs around the world indicates that, in many ways, this program exemplifies the original mission and goals of the Fulbright Program to increase mutual understanding among the people of the United States and the people of other countries. By reaching out to recent U.S. university graduates, in particular, and placing grantees throughout the host country, the ETA programs have broadened the Fulbright Program’s reach and impact, and grantees are having the time of their lives!

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