The benefits of being a Fulbrighter (based on personal experience)
The benefits of participating in Fulbright FLTA program are numerous and I am only giving a small portion here. (If you need some background on my participation in the program, read this and this.) Here goes:
– You meet lots of great people.
Before you even leave for the USA, you meet your fellow FLTAs from your own country. Applicants go through a rigorous selection process, so the ones that do get selected are intelligent, creative, enthusiastic, and a lot of fun. Then you meet your fellow FLTAs from all over the world. Again, you meet intelligent, creative, enthusiastic, and fun people, but this time there is an added benefit of meeting people from other cultures (around 50 countries all told). You get a chance to see these people dance national dances, wear national clothes, and try authentic home-cooked national foods. The experience just opens your eyes to how fascinating and diverse the world is.
– You get first-hand experience of American education from two perspectives: as a teacher and as a student.
I did all the mundane things students do – I took notes in classes, did homework, wrote quizzes, sat exams, worried about my grades, checking blackboard 3 times a day, just like an average American student.
At the same time, I did all the mundane things teachers do – I graded homework, assessed exams, filled in online attendance after every class and so on. Fortunately, I got a lot of guidance and support from Professor Daria Kirjanov, who not only shared all her materials with me, but also gave me insights into what to expect from students and how to deal with any issues that arose.
– You get first-hand experience of American life.
Let me give you just some examples of things I got first-hand experience of. In the USA, everything is well-organized and made convenient for people. Everything starts and finishes exactly on time. Mass transit is not very well-developed (at least compared to Russia) because people don’t need it because they go everywhere by cars. When you get on the bus, you have to have exact change because tickets machines or drivers don’t give change. You get a grocery store discount even if you don’t have the store card. People hold doors and give up their places in lines for you. Everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or disabilities, is included and respected.
– You improve your English skills significantly.
First and foremost, living in an English-speaking country for a year definitely boosts your fluency and breaks down the speaking barrier that most learners of English have even if they have been learning English for 10 years. Additionally, you learn real-life and natural language that you don’t always find in books. I don’t think any book I’ve ever used to learn or teach English introduced the phrase “Have a good one!” (which means “Have a nice day” or simply “Bye”). Or, “Are you all set?” (which means something like “Do you need anything?” or “Can I help you?”). Or, “I’m good.” (which means, “I don’t need anything, thank you.”). All these phrases are ubiquitous in the USA, yet they aren’t usually taught in books.
– You develop professionally in the direction you like without the pressure of completing a degree or graduating.
– You can travel the country more cheaply and effectively.
Fulbrighters are scattered all over the country. So when you travel, you can stay at their places saving money on hotels and time on researching what to see in the area. I might never have visited Oregon, if it wasn’t for an FLTA there.
– This is just my personal benefit: I did everything I had on my bucket list during my Fulbright year!
There were only two things though: 1. See whales (which I did on both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean!); 2. See Mayan pyramids (which I did because a fellow FLTA suggested going to Mexico during the winter break!).
To cut a long story short, there are myriads of benefits of being a Fulbright FLTA on many levels, definitely more than I’ve described. Feel free to expand my list in the comments!