Tag Archive for Fulbright

Teaching in Thailand: Tenzin Kyisarh, Fulbright

Tenzin Kyisarh, 2016, Anthropology

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!



Inspiring Language Barriers: Abby Gruppuso’s Fulbright to Taiwan

Abby Gruppuso, 2016, East Asian Studies

Next year I will be teaching English in Taichung, Taiwan through a Fulbright fellowship. The decision to apply for this fellowship was deeply influenced by my time abroad in Beijing in the fall of 2014. I studied in China through a six-person Middlebury language immersion program, complete with a semester-long language pledge. I found out that I was the only student who had never been to China, and I was the only student who didn’t study Mandarin in high school. I told myself that it didn’t matter; my language classes back at Wesleyan had prepared me well.  Although my Mandarin classes at Wesleyan provided me with the immensely useful skill of perfect tones, my vocabulary was lacking and my listening comprehension and conversation skills were nonexistent. During my semester in Beijing, I studied harder than I’ve ever studied before. I practiced characters for at least three hours a day, asked my teachers a million questions, and was constantly making conversation with my friends in order to catch up to the rest of the group. And after only a month and a half, I was confident enough in my language skills to go to the local 麻辣烫 (hot spicy soup) shop alone, to take the subway across the city, to give a ten minute presentation about 孔子的死亡观 (Confucius’ view of death), to take cooking lessons with a Sichuan chef, and to talk to a local man in the park about music.

Overcoming this challenge was the reason I decided to apply to teach English in Taiwan. There are students there who are facing, through a mirror, the same problem I was when I started studying Mandarin. I want to impart my experiential wisdom on them, because I know exactly how they feel. I want to teach them that no matter the height of the language barrier they face, they can climb over it. Through this fellowship, I hope to change a student’s life like the Middlebury program changed mine.

Preparing my application for Fulbright proved to be a difficult task, mostly because I wanted it so badly. I worked on my essays for many months, but was dissatisfied with every draft I came up with. It was just boring. I was under the impression that my application had to be formal, but that just isn’t who I am. The one thing I eventually did that turned the whole process around was reading sample essays from people who had gotten accepted. I discovered that I could approach the prompt in any way I wanted. And I’m a writer, so I told a story. Most of the first paragraph of this post is actually from my application. Instead of telling the committee why I wanted the Fulbright, I showed them through my experience and personality.

My biggest advice for writing fellowship applications would be to 1) read sample essays, 2) be patient, and 3) be yourself. Your essays will come together, so don’t stress. Start early and one day the inspiration will just strike. (I wrote my final personal statement in a half hour!) Don’t make yourself be something you’re not. Committees like that of Fulbright are looking for passionate one-of-a-kind people who will bring something valuable to classrooms abroad. And if they don’t want you for you, then it’s just not the right program. Apply to a few different things. Ultimately, each program is looking for something slightly different and you’ll end up with the perfect fit!



Abby Gruppuso

Fulbright in Madrid: Leah Bakely

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.

Best of luck!