I am going to be a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Thailand next year. As a part of the fellowship, I will represent the country as a cultural ambassador while I am overseas, helping to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people in Thailand.
During my sophomore year at Wesleyan, I received the Summer Experience Grant through which I traveled to Thailand to teach English in the northern province of Chiang Rai. I got to meet a lot of wonderful people through that experience which also ignited my interest for teaching and deepened the love I have for the country. As a graduating senior, when I was looking for post-grad opportunities that would allow me to travel for a year to Asia, Fulbright looked like the ideal opportunity for me to do what I wanted. With my previous experience in Thailand that had already impacted me, I decided to apply for Fulbright Thailand.
I decided to apply for the fellowship because it will serve as a perfect blend of travel and work that I was looking for in my post-grad endeavors. It was also another great reason for me to go back to the country that initiated my self-reflection process. I hope to go to graduate school after my year abroad, but I am also open to the various changes that will come my way. I look forward to meeting the kids and interacting with them, and at the same time, learning more about myself.
One of the hardest things about the application process was actually waiting to hear back. Since Fulbright does not have an interview process and they recommend not to connect them after the submission, not knowing how your application was viewed or where you were in the process was very dreadful. However, though the semi-finalist notification does give you hope for your application, the waiting game after that (whether you are a finalist) is more difficult. With my experience, I realized that being calm and patient was key during the waiting process. Though you’ll be anxious and nervous about the future, being optimistic about the outcome definitely helps!
Leah Bakely, 2016, History, Hispanic Literatures and Cultures
Next year, I’ll be assistant teaching English at a high school in Madrid through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program.
What inspired me to apply for Fulbright? I studied abroad in Mexico spring of my junior year and didn’t want to come back to Wes (I actually strongly considered doing senior Fall there), so I figured if living abroad made me so happy, I might as well try to get funded to do it in the future. I also absolutely love being immersed in Spanish and I wanted another opportunity to continue learning the language.
I applied for Fulbright ETA specifically because, after sixteen years of school, I wanted a break from research, a break from sitting at a desk, but I still wanted to be able to travel. I also thoroughly enjoyed being a writing tutor at Wesleyan, particularly for ESL students, so I thought assistant teaching English would be a good way to to combine my interest in teaching ESL with my love of travel and need for a break from school. Lastly, I wanted to be in one place for the entire year and Fulbright offered me the opportunity to do that–and to choose the place.
As far as the application, condensing my entire life and all my aspirations into two pages and carving out the time to work on the application during the very busy beginning of the semester was a difficult process. For students wishing to apply to Fulbright or to a similar fellowship, I offer the following advice:
1) Start working on your essays early (like in August)!!
2) Take your essays to the writing workshop. A writing tutor was the only reason I was able to condense my second essay into one page.
3) Get as many people to edit your essays as you can; the more drafts you go through, the better.
During the summer before my senior year I began thinking about post-graduate plans. As I talked to my class Dean and several mentors, I increasingly recognized that I was passionate about policy aimed at reducing and responding to gender violence. Throughout my time at Wesleyan I worked intensively on re-designing some of Wesleyan’s policies for the adjudication and sanctioning of sexual misconduct and my senior thesis analyzed medical aid responses to sexual violence in postcolonial nations. I knew that, eventually, I wanted to translate my experiences at Wesleyan into a more focused study of cross-cultural policy intervention. After expressing my interest in this field of policy work, both my class dean and mentors suggested that I consider applying for graduate school. I spent some time browsing different academic programs and ultimately decided to apply for the Keasbey Scholarship, which covers a two-year masters program at Oxford University. This fall I am heading to Oxford to study for an MPhil in Comparative Social Policy, focusing specifically on international responses to gender violence.
Throughout this application process, I worked closely with Kate Smith and I cannot stress enough how much I valued our conversations and her advice. The application process for fellowships and scholarships can be incredibly long, so here are a few friendly tips:
1) Find something that you’re truly passionate about: when you’re on your 15th revision of your personal statement, what really matters is that you care enough to complete the process.
2) Start your personal statement early: it’s much more fun if you have time to play around with ideas and write when you have the inspiration to do so.
3) Stay connected with your mentors throughout the process: my weekly meetings with Kate, and conversations with my mentors, helped me flesh out ideas, prepare for interviews, and stay motivated.
There are so many incredibly opportunities out there – even if you’re not sure what you want to do, I’d encourage you to stop by the Center for Global Studies and explore the options. Have fun!