Cecilia Hsu ’20, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) to Spain, reflects on her experience teaching English in Galicia and shares advice for students who are interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
What has been the best piece of advice that you got about applying for Fulbright?
The best piece of advice I got when applying for Fulbright came from Dr. Gump! He told me to think about multiple ways in which I was connected to the place I was applying to. If you are applying to Spain, I would highly suggest aiming for one region in particular. When explaining your reasons for choosing your region, be purposeful and approach it from multiple angles. One of my personal reasons for choosing Galicia is that I love medieval churches, and now I live close enough to the Cathedral of Santiago that I get to visit whenever I want. An academic reason was that learning Galego, the local language, might be helpful for my future studies.
What have you learned about yourself during your Fulbright experience?
Having worked in Spanish schools for over a year now, I have learned a lot about the advantages and shortcomings of my own education growing up. For example, I've realized how lucky I was that American extracurriculars like music are tied to schools rather than in private programs, and I've realized how linguistically unprepared many American students are compared to my students, most of whom are learning four languages. Going forward, I will be much more aware of potential differences in my international students' backgrounds, and I am much firmer in my own pedagogical convictions.
What advice would you have for how to choose which country to apply to or for someone who is nervous about going abroad?
I would first look at which countries you qualify for– some have stricter requirements than others. Consider which cultures you would like to experience and which languages you would like to improve or learn. Galicia was a perfect location for me because I will focus more on Latin America in my future studies and might not have too many opportunities to revisit my interests in the Iberian Peninsula. In addition, I'd only briefly visited Galicia for a couple days beforehand, so my time here has been maximally rewarding and has not been a repetition of any past study abroad experience. If you haven't spent extended time abroad before, don't be nervous! In my opinion, immersing yourself in another place is the best way to orient yourself in the world. And most people are super kind when it comes to slip-ups in language.
Complete this sentence: My Fulbright experience taught me...
My Fulbright experience taught me that I love teaching language. I also have a newfound appreciation for the people, culture, and landscapes of Galicia.