Many have asked about the application for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, so I’ll try my best to be informative as I share my application experience. If you’re unfamiliar with The Fulbright Program, I invite you to check out the official website: Fulbright Online.
Fulbright hopefuls may only apply to one country. In general, the grants are competitive, and Uruguay is “on par” in terms of the competitiveness of Fulbright Grants. Being that you can only apply to one country, it’s important to select a country in which your application will be competitive. All of the Spanish-speaking countries are relatively competitive, but as you can see from the charts below showing the statistics for various Latin American countries, I at least had an idea of what my chances were when I applied. This year, there will be 4 US Fulbrighters heading to Uruguay. The charts below show estimates, which is why Uruguay is listed as having 5 ETA’s in 2017.
If you are curious, the link below will bring you to the Fulbright website, where you can find applicant statistics for each of the 160+ countries that sponsor US Student grants. Click here -> Fulbright Statistics
The application itself is not all that long, and that is what makes it so difficult. As a Fulbright hopeful, I had just two, single-spaced, one page narratives to sell myself.
In the first, the Statement of Grant Purpose, applicants must outline why they are interested in teaching English to non-native speakers, as well as why they have chosen to apply for a particular country. In addition, applicants are expected to portray what they can bring to the classroom in the host country as well as a description of how they will engage with the host country community in a supplemental project. If you’re curious, see mine here: My Purpose Statement.
The second essay, the Personal Statement, is more open-ended and should offer application reviewers a picture of who you are as an individual. Once again, if you’re curious, see mine here: My Personal Statement.
I wrote drafts upon drafts upon drafts of each essay, each of which were closely examined and critiqued by Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch (UW-Eau Claire Honor’s Program) and Mrs. Cheryl Lochner-Wright (UW-Eau Claire Center for International Education). Their feedback was invaluable to the success of my application.
Finally, applicants must submit three references as part of the process. My three references certainly deserve a shout out for helping me out!
- Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch
- Dr. Paul Hoff (Spanish)
- Elizabeth Kitzman (TESOL)
The Waiting Game:
I submitted the application October 9, 2015.
On January 15, 2016, I received word that I had been recommended as a semi-finalist by the International Institute of Education.
On April 5, 2016, The Board of Directors of the Fulbright Comisión Uruguay requested a Skype Interview.
On May 10, 2016, The Institute of International Education notified me that I had been named a Grant Alternate.
On October 6, 2016 – nearly a year after I submitted my application – I received the good news. I had just wrapped up a Spanish III lesson and the students were heading out the door. I realized I had not yet taken attendance and rushed over to my computer to do so. A notification on the Mail icon indicated I had three new messages. I clicked on the notification and recognized within seconds that I was experiencing one of “those moments” that I’d simply never forget. My life had just changed significantly.
The warning bell rang. In 20 seconds, I was to begin teaching fourth hour.
Looking back now, I don’t think Uruguay could have been further from my mind. After all, I was in the midst of teaching six sections of high school Spanish, coaching high school football, planning for edTPA, writing a Best Man speech, and just forty-eight hours away from submitting what would have been an application for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Colombia. I remember standing up, hearing students buzz past me as they took their seats, and thinking, “Wow. This is real.”
The bell rang. 11:15 AM. Time for class.
The bell rang. 11:58 AM.
I have no idea what I taught that day. The whole class period was like an out-of-body experience. When the lunch hour arrived, I made a handful of phone calls to announce the news. I was going to Uruguay.