Note: This is not an official Department of State website or blog, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State.
Hello everyone! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. In a little less than a month I will be embarking on my very own personal odyssey. On July 31 I will fly out of O’Hare Airport at 12:30 am for a 15 hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan. From there I will travel to Yilan to begin my year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Yilan is a county on the northeast side of the island, and I will be working with elementary and middle school students while I am there. I can’t wait to get started!
Now, you might be thinking something along the lines of “Wait, what!? Yilan? Fulbright English teaching assistant?!”
Let’s back up a bit. If you saw this blog post on my Facebook feed (hi mom!), then you might know what I’ve been up to recently. If you are a potential Fulbright-er who came across this blog on Google, let me give a little background information.
I graduated from Notre Dame in 2016 with a bachelor’s in History. The year after I graduated I worked part-time while I studied Mandarin, volunteered, took improv classes in Chicago, and applied for a Fulbright. Some people apply for Fulbright scholarships while they are in their senior year of college, and travel abroad pretty soon after graduation. However, some people apply as recent graduates, which is what I did. This meant that I had a year after graduating to think about what my next steps would be. I liked having a year after college to get organized and to plan what I wanted to do next.
I want to teach English abroad for many reasons, but two stand out. It’s always been on my bucket list to live abroad. I want to fully immerse myself in a culture, and attempt to understand it as the locals do. I studied abroad in Ireland during college, and have gone to England and France with my family, all of which were wonderful experiences. However, I never thought there would be a feasible way to make living abroad for the long-term a reality.
Teaching is also an interest of mine. Helping students to grow academically and in confidence is fulfilling. If only there were some way to combine my two goals… At some point during my senior year of college, I came across the idea of teaching English abroad. One of my TA’s had taught in Taiwan, and my roommate’s cousin did the same in Thailand. Then, all of a sudden, it was everywhere. Everyone seemed to know someone who had taught English across the globe, from Spain to South Korea. Suddenly, my dreams didn’t seem quite so unrealistic.
I researched programs, and decided to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship to Taiwan. Prior to applying, I had heard of the Fulbright Program, but didn’t know much about it. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in over 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students and is the largest U.S. exchange program. Also, there’s an episode of The West Wing where Josh Lyman says that he’s a Fulbright scholar. My desire to learn Mandarin Chinese and travel somewhere where I have never been were big factors in choosing Taiwan. As an English teaching assistant (ETA) I will help with language classes and serve as a cultural ambassador.
Taiwan is an island off the south-east coast of China, and part of its climate is subtropical. I’ve heard from people who have been there that when you step off the plane, you are greeted with a wall of heat. As someone who has always grown up with Midwest winters, I’m hoping I adjust well to this change! Yilan county where I will be placed is about an hour outside of Taipei, the capital city. I think I will be in a good position to do lots of exploring around the country.
My goal is to start a blog (or at least attempt to) in order to reflect on my experiences abroad and keep my family and friends at home up to date.
I’m hoping to blog about teaching, living abroad, and any other ideas that pop into my head! I love to try new foods and see new horizons, so I will do my best to post pictures of all the new experiences I have.
Come along for the ride! More to follow soon…