I have some exciting news to share with you all! I have been awarded a one-year Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant to the Czech Republic! I have accepted the grant and will be living in the Czech Republic as an English teacher between August 24th, 2019 and June 30th, 2020. Applying for a Fulbright grant is nearly a year-long process that taught me a lot about myself, my future goals and aspirations, and what I want in a future job. I am so thankful to my family, my Fulbright mentors at Elon, and the numerous professors and staff who have encouraged me and coached me throughout this process.
Today, after lots of waiting, I finally found out the name of my school and the town where I will be living in the Czech Republic. Therefore, I thought this would be a great day for my first blog post. In this post, I plan to answer some common questions that I have received about the Fulbright program and my placement. I plan to continue posting on this blog as I prepare for Fulbright and of course, during my grant year.
If you have any questions or ideas for posts, please let me know!
What is Fulbright?
The Fulbright Program began in 1946 under President Harry S. Truman with the goal of fostering relationships between citizens and governments of other countries. Today, there are Fulbright programs in over 140 countries that offer research, study, and teaching opportunities to recent graduates and graduate students. Applying to Fulbright is a long process! I spent two months researching countries and deciding best fit, several months writing my essays and working with professors and staff on Elon’s campus to complete my application, and then many months waiting for the results. The Fulbright grant covers my travel costs to and from the Czech Republic and provides me with a stipend for living costs.
How/Why did you pick the Czech Republic?
When applying for a Fulbright, you can only choose one country to apply for. The process is highly competitive and you will be living there for a full year, so it is extremely important to pick a country that suits you well. Here are some factors that I considered:
- For many countries, you must be fluent in the language, so I knew those were automatically off the table.
- Some countries place ETAs at universities or elementary schools, and I knew I wanted to teach at a high school.
- I was not very interested in western Europe since I have already traveled there.
- I have Czech and Polish heritage.
The Czech Republic appealed to me for many reasons. I traveled to Prague and Kutná Hora when I studied abroad and loved learning about the history of the country. The country is very centrally located in Europe with access to many great places. Towns are full of cultural events like music, plays, performances, and great beer and food are abundant. I enjoy learning about the country’s past as Hitler’s base during WWII and as part of the Soviet Regime. All of the placements in the country are at secondary schools and the school system is an incredibly interesting vocational-based system. Thus, I decided to apply!
Here’s a photo of me in Prague when I studied abroad in the Spring of 2017.
What will you teach?
I will teach English! My school is a vocational school in the Moravian-Silesian region of the Czech Republic. Schools must apply and may wait several years to have a Fulbright grantee placed with them. My school has 750 students (65% female). Since it is a vocational school, students have “specializations” including hospitality, polygraphy, agriculture, business, accounting, baristas, and sommeliers. I have also been told that the school competes nation-wide in cooking competitions and projects and that they hope that I will be involved in these extracurricular activities.
Fulbright grantees teach about 20 hours a week. In my spare time, I will complete a supplementary research project and will participate in the extracurricular activities at my school. I also hope to find a language exchange partner to practice Czech with!
How long is the program?
The program is 10 months (August 24th 2019 -June 30th 2020).
Where will you live?
The town where I am placed seems like my perfect fit. It is small/medium sized, seems like it has plenty of cute cafes, and is sort of in two countries?! It is called Česky Těšín and is located on the far east side of the country bordering Poland.
Below, the region outlined in red is Česky Těšín. Poland is located to the right and Slovakia borders the country on the south side.
In the photo above, you can see that the town is split by a river called the Olza. The town itself is actually in two countries. Part of the town (the Česky Těšín side) is located in the Czech Republic, while the other side (Cieszyn) is located in Poland. Altogether, the population is around 60,000 people.
How in the world did this happen?! You may be wondering, as I did just a few hours ago. This town has existed in some form since the 7th century and was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and remained together until it was divided in 1920, splitting it into Poland on one side and Czechoslovakia on the other. Then, during the war, the region was annexed and almost the entire Jewish community was killed. After WWII, the original city borders were restored and now, you can cross between both parts of the city freely over a bridge.
In terms of housing, I’m not sure yet where I will live! I have been given a mentor at my school who will help me find an apartment to rent.
What language do they speak?
In the Czech Republic, they speak Czech. Czech is a Slavic language that is similar to Slovak, Polish, and Russian. Since I am on a border town, I am expecting a regional dialect that mixes Czech and Polish.
How will you prepare?
This summer, I will be working part-time as a TA with Duke’s Summer Academy. In my free time, I plan to study Czech and read up on some Czech history and literature. Our Fulbright country director also puts us in touch with past grantees who have lived in our area.
I will have about 3 weeks at home at the end of the summer to pack and shop! Our handbook advises us to pack clothes that will suit us between 0-90 degrees Fahrenheit – yikes!
Thank you so much for reading and for your support. I hope that you will follow along as I embark on this journey. Na zdravi! Cheers!
This post is not an official Department of State publication. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Department of State, the Fulbright Commission, or the host country.