WHAT IS A FULBRIGHT GRANT?
The Fulbright Program was established in the 1940s as a tool to promote intercultural exchange by sending Americans abroad to study, conduct research or otherwise engage in scholarly pursuits, as well as by bringing in foreign nationals to the US to do the same. Today, the program offers a myriad of grants for students, professionals and professors. The two most common grants people in my age range apply for are research grants (also referred to as full grants) and English Teaching Assistantships, commonly known as ETA grants. It's a fairly prestigious fellowship (not to toot my own horn or anything), and the application process is typically rigorous and lengthy. It was nearly a full year between when I first started working on my application and when I finally found out I had received a grant.
WHAT DID I DO WITH MY FULBRIGHT?
I was a recipient of an English Teaching Assistantship grant, so I spent nine months working at the Heinrich-von-Bibra-Schule in Fulda, Germany. My school was a Realschule, which is a type of high school. The German education system is fairly confusing for Americans to wrap their heads around because there are so many different types of schools that tend to lead to different outcomes.
Students attend Realschule until 10th grade (ages 16 or 17), at which point they will pursue some sort of professional apprenticeship or similarly practical experience, or they may choose to transition to a Gymnasium (another type of high school that is geared toward preparing students to attend a university) to try and obtain their Abitur, a sort of certification that allows Germans entrance into a university. A Realschule is actually most similar to American high schools (without any honors or AP classes), whereas obtaining your Abitur is more like getting an associates degree.
As an ETA, I assisted the students' education about the English language and the culture of the English-speaking world. I spent about 12 hours a week leading classes in various exercises and lessons with the goal of teaching them about me and my country as well as giving them a chance to improve their English through interaction with a native speaker. Prior to the assistantship, I had never had any teaching experience or training, so I learned a lot on the fly.
WHERE WAS I LIVING?
As mentioned above, I was based in Fulda, which is a town of about 65,000 people about 1 hour northeast of Frankfurt in the state of Hessen. Before arriving in August, I had never been to Fulda before, but I was familiar with the area, having spent 5 months studying in Marburg, which is not far to the west. Although it's not very large by American standards, Fulda does have a small university and some lovely sites, including an ornate cathedral (Fuldaer Dom) and a palace (Fuldaer Stadtschloss). Much of the architecture dates from the 1700s, giving the whole city a very Baroque feel. If you'd like to see more of Fulda, check out this photographic tour I did here.