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Katie Lese (’14, ’16M) Fulbright in the Netherlands

College of Arts & Letters Fulbrighter


 
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SUMMARY: Katie Lese is currently in the Netherlands doing an English Teaching Assistantship through the Fulbright Program. She graduated from JMU with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, a minor in writing, rhetoric and technical communication, and her master’s in communication & advocacy.


By Katie Lese ('14, '16M)

Hallo from the Netherlands!

I am about a month into my Fulbright placement here in Amsterdam and have been loving this experience. A year ago, I was finishing up my application and hoping that I might have a chance to experience a new culture and education system. Being here now feels surreal! Moving abroad or being a Fulbrighter was never something I had aspired to achieve throughout college. I actually did not even know about the program until after I finished my master’s degree.

I remember sitting in the Hillcrest House with Kurt Davies, previous Prestigious Scholarships director, telling him how I needed to make a change in my life and career but did not know where to start. He told me about the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) and I was hooked. If you are in the same position wondering to yourself, “is Fulbright a good fit for me?” then you are not alone!

Here are a few of my personal tips and thoughts on why you should apply for an English Teaching Assistantship through Fulbright.

1. Cultural exchange is key to becoming a better global citizen.

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Representing JMU in front of Dom Toren, or the Utrecht Cathedral, in the Netherlands.

Learning about a culture is one thing–throwing yourself into one is another! Fulbright allows you to completely immerse yourself into your placement culture by being involved in local school systems and encouraging you to be an active member of the community. For example, my Fulbright program believes strongly in us getting involved in the Dutch community, whether that is volunteering at a local non-profit, joining a sports team, or even just taking a dance class in Dutch. Finding spaces that were not in my native language and were dominated by cultural identities that I do not hold was scary for me! I did not want to feel left out or uncomfortable, but without experiencing those feelings we cannot grow past them.

I did not want to feel left out or uncomfortable, but without experiencing those feelings we cannot grow past them.

Now, I am looking into volunteering at an animal shelter and taking cooking classes to branch out and meet more people in the community. The Netherland’s Fulbright Commission has a slogan saying our experience here should be “More Culture. Less Shock.” I have let that guide my choices so I can experience the Dutch culture with open arms and begin to acclimate.

2. Learn about a different education system and how that influences an entire society.

What makes the ETA program different than research Fulbright positions is the emphasis on teaching and being in the classroom. However, you do not have to major in education to apply! My cohort here in the Netherlands has people with a wide variety of degrees from biology to social work to economics. What you do need is a desire to learn about education and teaching English to non-native speakers.

What you do need is a desire to learn about education and teaching English to non-native speakers.

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One of the canals on my walk to work. Amsterdam is famous for its beautiful canals throughout the city!

I was intrigued by the Dutch education system when I began my Fulbright research because of the heavy emphasis on vocational education and how different that is compared to the United States. The education system here allows for academic paths and trade paths to both be validated, allowing students more freedom to follow the career path that best suits their needs. My students at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam are bachelor’s degree level students studying to be English teachers, but other placements range from elementary school, hospitality and tourism programs, and trade schools for the make-up and beauty industry. There is a wide range of interests you can pursue through your teaching placement as an ETA.

3. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and build confidence.

I think the hardest part of this past month was getting out of my comfort zone of what I would normally do. It might be foods you perceive as “weird” or using the metro in a foreign language by yourself or even just making friends in a new country that might be outside of your comfort zone. However, because you are here for a year, you will have time to dip your toe in the water at your own pace and try things you normally would not! Not being here for a short time period or coming with friends, like study abroad can often be, pushes you to take the time to invest in long term relationships and challenge yourself. I used to hate going to eat by myself, but now I try to go to cafes alone and order only in Dutch.

One of the best parts of the Fulbright experience is having people alongside you experience the same cultural adjustments.

One of the best parts of the Fulbright experience is having people alongside you experience the same cultural adjustments. I love my cohort because we can relate to these experiences, like why Dutch people LOVE sandwiches so much or how to explain a past participle to a student. Fulbright not only gave me opportunities to make Dutch friends, but now I have a new support network from the U.S. that will last beyond my year in Amsterdam.

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Celebrating the Netherland’s 75th anniversary of the Fulbright program with fellow ETAs at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in The Hague.

I hope these help you in thinking about if you should to apply for the Fulbright ETA program. Fulbright has already been an eye-opening experience that has influenced how I see my future career and personal life goals. If you’re a JMU student/alum and want more information, learn more here.

Apply for Fulbright

Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Last Updated: Monday, December 16, 2019

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