So you wanna move to Europe, huh? (Fulbright info.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

As mentioned in my FAQ, the most F A’ed Q is: “I really wanna move to Europe!  Can you tell me how?”.  I see these comments pop up on this little blog a whole lot.

Additionally, I also get a few emails each month asking me the same thing.  While I offered a few pieces of advice in this FAQ page (which really needs to be updated), I’ve found that, often times, people need/want to know a little more.

But the thing is, I’m not really too qualified to impart all kinds of wisdom on the whole “moving to Europe” topic….I really just know how to do it “my way”, which consisted of:  studying abroad in Salzburg, interning at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, and receiving a Fulbright grant to teach English in Nuremberg (and then a grant extension in Dresden).  Studying abroad can be done through your university or through private programs (AIFS is the one I recommend!).  Information about government internships can be found here.  And Fulbright….well, Fulbright is a little trickier.  I get more Fulbright-related questions than study abroad or internship-related questions, so I thought I’d devote this post to answering some of the questions that have recently found their way into my inbox.


{Andy, Emily and me at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, during a Fulbright conference.}


1.  What made you want to apply for a Fulbright, and when did you start the application process?

I had just finished studying abroad in Salzburg in 2009 and wanted to prolong my time in Europe.  My cousin suggested I apply and, initially, I deemed the process too intimidating and ruled it out.  However, with a little encouragement from my cousin and professors, I decided I’d give it my all and go for it.  And give it my all I did.  I didn’t tell anyone I was applying, though, until I was about halfway through the application process.  My family and roommates knew (and a couple of professors), but that was about it.  I started working on my application in July or August of 2009; right before I began my senior year of college.

2.  Can anyone apply for a Fulbright?  Is there an age limit?

I applied before graduating with my Bachelor’s.  You can apply at-large after having graduated, but I don’t know what that process entails.  I assume it’s more or less the same, but my university provided me with a Fulbright adviser, with whom I met weekly, which was so helpful.  I can’t imagine doing it all on my own, but it is certainly possible.

3.  What’s the application process like?

I’ve often joked that the application process requires 9 months of your blood, sweat and tears.  You have to get all sorts of blood work done once you get the grant (to prove you’re healthy enough to go), you sweat through the stress of meeting deadline after deadline and sometimes, when you haven’t slept in 4 days, you just cry about it all!  But I was also enrolled in 20 hours both semesters of my application process, so……

4.  When did you find out you received the grant?

I can only speak for the German application process when I say there were a few rounds.  I had to make it past the “University round” in early October, which involved writing a grant proposal and personal essay, having my German language skills evaluated, and interviewing before the board at my university (this is why I get a bit confused by the “at-large” process). Once I got past that round, I revised my essays about twenty (if not more) times and then submitted all my documents for the “national round”. I received word that I’d made it past that round in late January, and then came the tough part; translating my application to German and submitting it to Germany.  I got the acceptance letter at the end of March.  It was such a glorious day!!!  I called my dad, and then my mom, and then Kaitlyn.  And then I ate some falafel with my roommates.

5.  Do you get to choose where you are placed?

Again, I can only speak for the German application when I say that you pref. three states (regions).  My first choice was the state of Bavaria, and that’s what I got.  I was so pleased!

6.  How is the pay?

Terrible!  No, really.  You will lose 10 lbs. per week because you won’t be able to afford food.  Make sure you save up a ton of money beforehand so you can at least travel on the weekends, which will distract you from your perpetually growling stomach (or make it worse; running to catch trains burns a lot calories, after all).

7.  What is it like teaching English to non-native speakers?   Did you have experience?

Fulbright provides a training orientation for you before you start teaching, which helps.  I had little to no experience, but I got the hang of it quickly.  And honestly, even the youngest German students know so much English that you shouldn’t encounter too many problems.  I mean, by the time they’re in high school, they’re reading the same books (in English) that I read in high school (Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, Great Gatsby, etc.).  Do they put American public schools to shame?  Yes.  Granted, they watch a lot of American TV and most of the songs on the radio are American songs (in English), so they do have those advantages….  The only downside to the teaching, in my opinion, is that if you don’t know British English, you will be told on a daily basis that you don’t know how to spell.  Or they’ll correct your choice of words because, surprisingly enough, there are about a million and one discrepancies between AE and BE vocab.  And sometimes that’s annoying.

8.  Does Fulbright find you a place to live? 

Fulbright does not walk you through the process of arriving, finding housing, making friends, etc.  You’ll have to do that yourself, and you’ll have to rely on your colleagues for that initial support system, as you will be totally alone… but if your experiences are anything like mine, it will all work out – your colleagues will want to help you get settled!

9.  Does Fulbright pay for your round trip flight?

For the German grant, yes.  I don’t know about the other countries.

10.  What is the best and worst part?

Meeting my fellow Fulbrighters stands out as a major highlight to me.  I say:  form a tight bond with each other and spend time traveling/going out together, because in many ways, you are all each other has.  I would definitely advise meeting and befriending the locals, of course, (which will improve your language skills like nothing else!) but there are times when you just may need some good old-fashioned American company.  As far as the worst part….I’d say the pay, definitely. But it’s just a year (or two) of your life, and the experience in and of itself is worth the financial sacrifice.


{Other questions can be submitted in the comment box.  I will – for once in my life – try to answer them!}

{Photo via Emily.}

Maria Elyse said...

Gosh, it's been way too long since I've been able to catch up on all your blog posts! Anyway, your new blog design is adorbz! (Maybe it's not all that new and I just haven't been here in a while...hahaha.)

Maria Elyse

kim @ a positive peace said...

great post!!i actually looked into applying for a fulbright back in the day but was totally put off by the intense application process! but ive recently re-looked into it and discovered they have a grant for current teachers you can do like a teacher-swap and i could go teach in mexico, for example, and a mexican teacher could come teach in my school for a year! so i thought that was really cool but im not sure my administration would go for it!

Taylor said...

thank yu thank you thank youuuuu!!! i am going to bookmark this page and save it, read it over and over. :) you're the best. cannot wait to learn more about it!

Shauna said...

Great information, thanks for sharing!!


Nikki said...

thanks for sharing this info!

Barbara said...

I really wish Australia had something like the Fullbright grant because I would have definately applied! This sounds like an amazing initiative(once you get through the application process!).

Jenni Austria Germany said...


There is something like it in Australia. Last October, the PAD in Germany (an organization which issues teaching grants for students) hired me to work an orientation for Australian Uni. students moving to Germany to teach English. I don't remember what the program was called, but it was like a Fulbright program for Australians. Wish I could be more helpful!

Anonymous said...

these are fantastic tips for someone interested in the program! you can also tell them that if you date a norwegian guy and come to norway jobless you will have hunger pains all the time. must just be a thing with moving to europe.

lauren said...

Man, I bet your cousin wishes he could have been a fulbright scholar!

Melissa said...

Wow, as a Fulbrighter to Germany in 2007-08 this made me so nostalgic. And despite the extremely long process of writing and re-writing, and re-re-writing my application and waiting around for months and not knowing anyone when I was so worth it and I would do it all over again!

chantilly said...

wow, how completely amazing!! i'm in awe that you could make this happen for yourself. living in europe is but a pipe dream for me... sigh sigh :) xoxo

Alex, Speaking Denglish said...

whoa this rules, but may also be the most intimidating thing ever. Very helpful Jenni!!

lesley: the dream tree said...

wow, wish i had known about this when i was in college. what an amazing experience this would be.

Emilia said...

I applied for Fulbright ETA Germany twice and Fulbright USTA Austria three times.

The at-large process is a little difference. I applied at-large both times for the Fulbright Germany (Austria is a separate application) and for anyone applying this way, you don't get as much support. I actually wrote to my university the second time asking for advice/if I could apply through the school, but because I had graduated several years ago, I wasn't able to. However, someone in the honors program read my application and that was super helpful. Unfortunately, I did not get the Fulbright Germany, but I am going to Austria as a TA this September!

I just stumbled across your blog and found it inspiring. I'm trying to blog while I'm in Austria!

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