Michelle Tsai: Fulbright, Mexico, English Teaching Assistantship

Michelle with friends before climbing the Pena de Bernal

Michelle with friends before climbing the Pena de Bernal

Last post: Nine months is not enough to truly enjoy all that Mexico, or any other country, has to offer. One of the greatest aspects of the Fulbright ETA is that your schedule mirrors your students’ schedule so you get a lot of free time to explore your interests and travel. From seeing the air in Michoacan thick with thousands of migrating butterflies to splashing with the locals at the breathtaking clear blue waters at Agua Azul, I discovered that there is so much more to Mexico than the stereotypical tourist destinations. Reports on the dangers of Mexico have been greatly exaggerated as well. There are only a few states that I would not go to, and my local friends were very helpful in telling us which ones to avoid.

Teaching adults who were teachers was intimidating, but I grew to love it. Working with teachers meant we could have mature discussions about serious topics and shared a passion for pedagogy. I even learned some teaching tips from my students! I also learned a lot about teaching, time management and how to handle unexpected situations. In my spare time, I went around to local high schools and colleges and guest taught to gain more experience working with different age groups. We are so blessed in the United States to have such small classrooms for K-12. Most of the classrooms I saw had up to 60 students in one class, which made both learning and teaching more difficult!

One of my proudest achievements was climbing the third highest monolith in the world, the Peña de Bernal. I am not a very experienced hiker and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I was also proud of the inaugural multicultural exposition I created and implemented at my school. Students from all levels of English classes researched and presented on American, British and Mexican culture. Researching different aspects of the different cultures helped students break stereotypes and compare similarities between cultures. Some of my students and I decided to dress up as American pop culture characters. It was hilarious seeing Charlie Brown and Minnie Mouse talk about eating burgers and pizza. The exposition was so well received that the school plans to make it an annual event.

I miss Mexico very much, from its delicious but potentially dangerous street food to its passive-aggressive no-parking signs (“We’ll puncture your tire for free!”). No matter what program you choose or where you decide to apply, you will have an invaluable and unforgettable experience. If you are interested in learning more about a different culture or country and love learning, research, teaching, business or music, the Fulbright will be perfect for you. The application process and competition can seem daunting but the knowledgeable staff at SOP will help you every step of the way. Their careful editing and suggestions and personalized advising will help you create the strongest application possible for you to win the Fulbright and beyond!

Michelle and some of her studetns at the exhibition she created, in costume

Michelle and some of her students at the exhibition she created, in costume

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