Fulbright Korea Application deadline for the Teaching Program is October 10, 2023. Here are some tips for applying for this life-changing experience.
“The Fulbright experience will not help you professionally.” That’s what a mentor told me when I made it through the second round of my Fulbright application. But, as a Korean-American who was not surrounded by a community that embraced my cultural roots, an opportunity to further understand my rich Korean heritage was simply more important than career strategy.
The Fulbright program helped me so much more than any professional job title could. It transformed my life. Thanks to the Fulbright program, I have found my purpose and calling in life: to equal the playing field for youth living in Korea’s social welfare system.
I taught English in South Korea to approximately 600 students in the city of Sejong, South Korea, from 2015-2016 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA). I am now the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called KKOOM, which was founded by Fulbright Korea Alumni.
KKOOM’s mission is to improve the lives of children and young adults from Korea’s social welfare system through scholarships and outreach and I first got connected to the organization as a volunteer when I lived in South Korea.
What is the Fulbright Program?
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program expands perspectives through academic and professional advancement and cross-cultural dialogue. You can choose from over 140 different countries, although you can only apply for one country at a time. There are two different types of awards:
- Open Study/Research Grants: design your own research project to conduct in your specific country.
- English Teaching Assistant Grants: supplement local English language teaching by being a native speaker in the classrooms.
Fulbright Application Requirements:
- An application with biographical data and contact information.
- A summary of your proposal (your why, host country engagement, and future plans.)
- Your statement of grant purpose (your qualifications, ideas of classroom engagement, and intercultural skills to be a good cultural ambassador.)
- A personal statement (a one-page narrative about your personal background, family background, cultural opportunities, and more)
- Three recommendations.
- An academic transcript.
Fulbright Program Benefits:
- Health benefits
- A monthly stipend based on the cost of living in the host country
- Round-trip transportation to the host country
- Lifelong connections with a culturally competent community
- A year to learn about culture, community, and self-care
Tips for a Successful Fulbright Korea Application
The Fulbright Program application is due on October 10, 2023. It is an extensive application process. What makes a successful application? Based on my own experiences of applying, here are 10 helpful tips:
1. Really do your research and articulate why you want to teach in that specific country.
Your goal is to become a cultural ambassador bridging two cultures to bring mutual understanding.
What do you love the most about this culture? Is it the food, traditions, historical landmarks, cultural values?
2. Don’t tell me your story. Show me.
What are the things that make you come alive? What are your passions and interests, personally and professionally?
How are these tied to the future Fulbright experience you hope to gain?
3. Look at the website, and seek out keywords and phrases. Incorporate these skills into your application and personal statements.
Some keywords that personally stand out to me are cross-cultural dialogue, cultural exchange, appreciation of others’ viewpoints, and promoting mutual understanding.
How do these skill sets apply to any previous experiences you have had?
4. When have you represented something bigger than yourself? Share these experiences because it shows your ambassador skills.
Related experiences can include: being a Tour Guide, Orientation Leader, Rep Ambassador for a brand, tutor within the community, and more.
5. Have a community project you’re interested in.
How will you give back to the community outside of the classroom?
This will be the “host country engagement” portion of the application. This will be an important part of your application process.
Community engagement is a key component of the Fulbright program, but they also want to hear how you will bring your own culture and values in your host community.
6. Give your recommenders plenty of time to write your recommendation letter.
With Fulbright, give them at least two months advance notice for recommendations. (The rule of thumb I learned for college recommendations of two weeks advance notice falls very short of the increased time and attention needed in a Fulbright application.)
The depth of the letter is similar to submitting one for a Master’s degree program or for law school.
Choose people, faculty, and mentors who know you well, your character, your values, and your experiences.
Meet with them prior or set up a zoom call to let them know why you are applying to Fulbright and why it is important to you.
7. Have different people you trust review your draft.
Revise, revise, revise. And revise again. I went through 12 revisions.
Utilize the Fulbright advisor at your undergraduate institution. There are usually two advisors – one supporting current undergraduate students and an advisor supporting applicants who are at-large, a few years removed from their undergraduate experience.
8. What are your future goals and how will Fulbright help you achieve that path?
Fulbright wants you to articulate exactly why and how the experience will shape your future professional goals.
You do not need to have a 5-10 year plan and you can also generalize if necessary.
For example, I wrote that the Fulbright experience will help me have hands-on experience working in secondary education; my prior experience was working in higher education for two years before my Fulbright grant. Being an elementary or middle school teacher would influence my decision on pursuing a Master’s degree in secondary education.
9. Enjoy the process.
No matter the outcome, you’ll learn more about yourself so appreciate the journey through the application process. Going through the Fulbright process was a year of committing to do a lot of personal reflection. If you’re just doing this for the resume builder, you may lose the joy in better understanding who you are as you write your future hopes and dreams and how Fulbright will shape your global perspective.
10. Do not let fear get in the way of you getting outside your comfort zone. Just do it.
I let fear get in the way of completing an application two years before being accepted as a Fulbright grantee.
I did not think I was qualified to receive such a prestigious award, although staff members at my undergraduate college thought otherwise. I would tell myself that I was not qualified to even be considered.
“Soul of Korea” and Final Bits of Advice
One of the most impactful experiences of the Fulbright program for me was interviewing a Korean War Veteran for 6 consecutive weeks. I recorded and listened to the oral history of an 86-year-old Korean War Veteran. Not only sharing his experiences in the war, Mr. Jung shared the challenges of growing up under Japanese imperialism while realizing his faith is what kept him grounded. You can read the published article “Soul of Korea” in the Fulbright Korea’s Infusion Literary Magazine.
I will leave you with one final piece of advice – “Be comfortable being uncomfortable.” This was said on the first day of my Fulbright program orientation in South Korea and this quote really resonated with me. We were about to embark on a year-long experience of uncomfortable situations with culture shock, language barrier, and how to live in a country with social and cultural views very different from America.
The Fulbright application process to become a scholar will be difficult. You will need to do some self-reflecting to really know your “why.” You will want to quit (I know from experience because I did). You will doubt your abilities to receive the grant. Do it anyway. Do it scared. Your future self will thank you.
About the Fulbright Program for English Teaching Assistant in Korea
The Fulbright Program in Korea seeks to build mutual understanding and share knowledge across communities while enhancing the lives of grantees. As part of the United States Government’s flagship international exchange program, Fulbright grantees join a global network striving to promote a more peaceful world. In the process, grantees enrich educations, advance careers, and make meaningful contributions to the communities, and the world, in which they live.
Established in 1992, the Fulbright Korea English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program is designed for young American college graduates seeking to engage in cultural exchange by teaching English in Korean schools and interacting with their local communities, thereby contributing to US-Korea relations. The program is a 12-month long grant funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Korean Ministry of Education (MOE), along with its partnering Korean Boards of Education and local host institutions. This historic partnership stands at the center of the grant program’s administering organization, the Korean-American Educational Commission, otherwise known as Fulbright Korea.
ETA grantees undergo a 6-week orientation training period. This includes: intensive Korean language instruction, teaching, and cultural workshops, and various activities and opportunities to bond with their fellow ETAs before going to their placement schools. ETAs participate in two annual conferences to continue their professional development and bring new skills and insights back to their host institutions. Throughout the grant year, ETAs become active, engaged members of their communities and have the unique opportunity to continue their ETA experience for up to two additional years. Renewal grants are awarded based on satisfactory cultural adjustment, teaching performance, and available teaching positions.
To apply for the Fulbright Korea ETA Program, visit us.fulbrightonline.org .