Adventures in Spain: a year serving as a Fulbright Scholar
One thing Rebecca Jaeger enjoyed as a student at UD was the ability to travel abroad for an entire semester. She chose Spain, and fine-tuned her language skills in preparation for a life after college. Little did she expect her life would include a year of teaching English to adults and undergraduates back in Spain.
The Fulbright Scholarship program is a competitive opportunity for individuals who want to conduct specific research projects or teach English in foreign countries. Some countries offer a lot of scholarships, some offer only a few. Most countries have many more applicants than they can select, and Spain is one of those countries. In January 2016, Rebecca received an email to announce that she was a semi-finalist, meaning that there was a 50/50 chance she would actually be selected to go. When she received a second email confirming her selection, she was in shock. “I had just walked out of a test on a Thursday afternoon and had a whole bunch of emails,” she said. Since they announce the good news in the subject line, the Fulbright email caught her attention as she scanned. “I walked from Gore to Mentor’s Circle with tears of joy. I had just learned how to pull multiple people onto a phone call that week, so I called my parents in a group call to let them know I got [the offer] and then called all of my siblings to tell them they better get their passports,” Jaeger said.
Her emotions were all over the map. She was excited, but worried, as her logical side told her there were too many unknowns. “I was worried about walking off a plane and not knowing anyone,” she said, and when people questioned where she was going to live, her favorite response was “um…under a bridge?” While she told herself she would have all summer preparing for Spain, it wasn’t until two weeks before departure that she got everything settled. “I wanted to live with Spanish roommates or fellow Fulbrighters to have a more independent experience,” she said, citing that she lived on campus all four years at Delaware. “What they don’t tell you is how hard it is to fill out demographic forms in Spanish,” she said. “Trying to interpret what they were really asking for on official university paperwork was harder than I thought.” However, she did not live under a bridge for any period of time while in Spain.
Goals and Recommendations from a Fulbright Scholar
When you graduate, no matter what you do, WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS. Otherwise, you’ll never remember what you set out to do, and having them documented means you can look back to see if you achieved them.
- Walk away feeling fluent in Spanish.
Ignacio, 70 years old, was her language partner and she spent two hours each week conversing with him. She not only got to practice Spanish, but got to learn a different cultural perspective.
- Shape the position to fit strengths and define the role for future scholars.
Her job description was loosely defined. Fortunately, she was trained very well as a Writing Fellow to get her tutees to think about their writing, not just to serve as an editor. She incorporated this training into her role as an English language teacher and tutor, by helping her students create stronger theses and develop more coherent essays. “Being a tutor as a Writing Fellow really prepared me for my work – in fact that may have been why I got the offer,” she said.
She spent time working with a Competitive College Club, which prepares junior and senior high school Spaniards to apply to college in the US. She got to know a different population, talked about college essays and the common application, and worked with ambitious students, like she would find in the UD Honors Program. Jaeger explained, “I used an early version of my brother’s college application as an example and ripped it apart – the students loved that!”
- Explore and see Spain!
Rebecca visited Valencia, Salamanca, Barcelona, and Granada in Spain, and Munich, Berlin, Budapest, Salzburg, Dublin, Majorca, and Amsterdam outside of Spain.
How Fulbright prepared her for a career in law
Rebecca is considering a career in criminal law. “I’ve always seen myself in a courtroom and enjoy public speaking,” she said. Longer-term, she sees herself as a prosecutor or serving as a judge. She will head to the Marshall–Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary this August and hopes to find her passion, but is interested in learning more about immigration law and the Innocence Project. “I’m ready to be a student again,” Jaeger said. Spending a year helping others improve their writing skills made her want to read and write for herself. “Having a year with a lot of free time gave me a good mental break and helped me realize the importance of balance.” She also reflected on her own growth as a writer: while abroad she journaled every day.