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Once a month, we’re going to talk about awesome/weird/adventurous jobs that you (maybe) didn’t even know existed and talk to people who have done them. If you’re sick of your current gig, get to applying! You can read about other awesome jobs here.
How impressive would it be to add ‘Fulbright’ to your resume? Incredibly impressive. There are multiple Fulbright programs, but the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program is a great fit for recent grads.
Teaching assistants are usually placed outside of capitol cities (so, no Paris for you), assist English teachers and act as cultural representatives of sorts. When you apply for a position, you can only apply to one country (rather than applying to the program, being accepted and then choosing a country) so you’re more likely to get a posting if you choose a less popular locale. Again, maybe not Paris.
In order to apply for the program you must be a US citizen, have a BA and be proficient in the language of your proposed host country.
Jennifer did a Fulbright teaching assistantship in Germany and was kind enough to share her insights with us.
Can you tell us about your Fulbright experience?
I was placed in a very rural area of Germany right outside of Nuremberg, in the state of Bavaria.
Because I received the ETA (English Teaching Assistantship) grant as opposed to the Research Grant, my grant began in September of 2010 and ended in June of 2011. I think the terms of the research grant are different, though.
My duties were to teach English 12 hours a week. My hours were split between two schools; a Gymnasium and a Hauptschule. Part of the grant stipulates that the grantee is never to teach alone but should always assist. This was not the case at my schools – the teachers chose to leave me alone with the students quite frequently.
I was told by Fulbright that if this happened I should object, but I honestly didn’t mind. In some instances, I felt I reached the kids better when their “normal” teacher wasn’t around; they seemed to let their guard down and open up. Another stipulation of the grant prevented me from issuing grades; I was there only to teach and represent my country and culture. I’m sure this played a role in their being open with me, as they never had to fear that I’d punish their English mistakes with low marks.
Why did you decide to take part in the Fulbright?
I studied abroad at the University of Salzburg in 2009. Upon returning home, I missed Europe so much, longed for the adventure of constant travel, had German language withdrawals, etc. I decided that I needed to return to Europe as soon as possible!
Can you tell us about the application process?
The application process was a bit hellish. I started the process in July 2009 and I received word that I’d been given a grant on March 31, 2010. There are many different steps in the application process; the grantee must advance past the university level, then the national level, then the international level. Because of the multiple deadlines, I worked on my application for nine months straight. There were interviews, language evaluations, grant proposals and personal statements. I was constantly reviewing, preparing, editing, re-writing.
How did you prepare for your Fulbright posting?
I didn’t have much time to prepare for my posting because I spent the four months prior in Vienna interning with the US Embassy. Had I been at home in the US like the majority of the other “Fulbrighters,” I would have been more focused on preparing for my posting — like finding housing, making contacts in my area. In hindsight, that would have made the first months of my grant much easier.
Can you tell us about an average day in the life of a Fulbright-er?
For all the stress that goes into applying for a Fulbright grant, the life of a Fulbrighter is shockingly low-key. Since I was only required to work 12 hours a week, my work week consisted of four hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I had so much free time to travel and invest in community activities, which is Fulbright’s objective in mandating we work so few hours.
How much money are you earning?
I earned 800 euro a month from Fulbright, which is very low, but considering how little I worked, I suppose it’s fair. I also tutored on the side for additional income.
What were the biggest challenges about your experience?
Fulbright does not hold your hand as you walk through this process. This has its advantages and disadvantages. I found it beneficial because I was forced to take complete responsibility for myself and my actions and live completely independently. But when it came to finding housing, making friends, dealing with everyday struggles/cultural differences/language barriers, I often found it very difficult to manage on my own.
What did you take away from your experience?
I gained a lot of confidence and matured in ways I had not predicted. During the first half of my grant, for instance, I was in a very stressful living situation that brought me to tears on a regular basis. At home, I would have called my parents and relied on them to solve the problem but living in Germany, I was forced to resolve my own conflicts without the help of my parents.
In the second half of my grant, after a very peculiar health problem, I was hospitalized for a week. Had I been in a hospital in the US, my parents and siblings would have been by my side. However, dealing with these issues on my own – communicating with the doctors in a foreign language, resolving financial disputes with the insurance company – really helped me mature. I learned that I can take care of myself. I also learned that my parents’ help and support is invaluable and I’ll never take it for granted again!
Who would be a good fit for Fulbright?
Someone who is resilient. Not to say that the life of a Fulbrighter is extremely taxing — because, as I said, it’s really quite easy, work-wise. But the challenges you face when it comes to assimilating into a foreign culture and surviving on your own can be very exhausting.
Also: outgoing. Because you’re so isolated as a Fulbrighter, it’s absolutely essential that you step out of your comfort zone and make friends. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time in isolation and will get lonely.
Official Fulbright ETA website // De-Mystifying Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship //27 FAQS // The Grad Cafe (an online forum for people applying to the ETA program) // Hints for writing Fulbright application essays
Have any of you guys done a Fulbright? If you have, leave your suggestions in the comments!
Once a month, we’re going to talk about awesome/weird/adventurous jobs that you (maybe) didn’t even know existed and talk to people who have done them. If you’re sick of your current gig, get to applying! Read previous Job Awesome posts here.
If you were mildly obsessed with Mary Poppins as a child (or you’re just mildly obsessed with children) you might find au pairing to be a nice gig.
Au Pair is just a fancy French term for ‘international nanny.’ Families in both English and non-English speaking countries hire young women from other countries (usually under 27 years old) to tend to the children and home while imparting a bit of their native language and culture to the family. The added bonus, of course, is that you get to live in another country and earn money while you’re doing this.
Au pairing gigs vary greatly from country to country and family to family, so it’s particularly important to speak to your family’s previous au pair and to make sure that everyone’s expectations are clear before you sign a contract or book a ticket.
Francine was an au pair in Finland for a year.
Can you tell us about your specific au pair experience?
I worked with a Finnish family for one year. I lived with them at their home in Espoo, Finland (a 20-minute bus ride from Helsinki). I did housework and laundry in the morning while the kids were at school and then I picked them up from school in the afternoon. Sometimes we’d hang out together, playing random games but usually the older two (11 and 8 at the time) would hang out with their friends. The youngest one (5 at the time) and I hung out the most because I’d pick her up from daycare after lunch everyday. Around 3:30/4:00 I’d begin preparing dinner for the family. It was usually ready around 5:00 and one of the parents would try to arrive home at that time. We’d all eat dinner together. After dinner, I’d head to my private apartment behind the garage, which sounds like a slightly creepy location, but it was a super cute apartment.
Why did you decide to be an au pair?
I always thought being an au pair sounded exotic and exciting. In middle school I saw a Disney channel movie about a French au pair. While in high school I became very interested in other cultures and in college I began thinking of ways to move abroad.
As graduation rolled around, I realized this would be a perfect time to be an au pair. I began browsing au pair websites for possible jobs and reading job descriptions, which helped me develop an understanding of what au pair life would be like.
Even though I knew that being an au pair would probably require cleaning toilets and washing dishes, I still imagined it would be romantic. 19th century novels abound with stories of governesses and nannies, so it seemed old fashioned and unique – two things I’m charmed by. It did end up being rather romantic at times: picking flowers to put under our pillows at Summer Solstice, taking the kids by the night train to the Arctic Circle, watching the sun slowly blaze orange over the frozen tundra.
But it was also rather unromantic, folding piles of clothes, feigning an interest in the Bratz dolls and trying to get three kids to eat a healthy afternoon snack when all they wanted was a bottle of Fanta and a bag of gummy candies. I’m glad there was a little romance and charm, but I also realized that everyday things can be the most charming of all.
Can you tell us about the application process?
There are a number of au pair agencies out there. I didn’t use one, so I don’t know anything about them except that they cost money and seem unnecessary because every au pair I met in Finland didn’t use an agency.
I signed up on greataupair.com, created a profile and listed the country I wanted to work in as ‘everywhere.’ Signing up is free, but you have to pay to for the ability to contact potential employers/families. I didn’t do this because in one day I had 20 emails from families around the world. I began emailing the ones that seemed interesting.
About a week into the process I got an email from a Finnish mom requesting my phone number because she wanted to speak with me. She promptly called me and told me all about their family, what they’d like their au pair to do and the process of getting an au pair visa. She also asked for some references.
I gave her the info of some families I was regularly babysitting for, and she gave me the info of their previous au pair. We each contacted the references. The previous au pair told me how great the parents and the kids were and how amazing Finland was. I talked to Heini (the Finnish mom) a few more times. She asked about my family and if I was worried about moving abroad, probably just trying to see how committed I was to staying and working for a year. After about a week of communication, I was going to Finland!
Heini later told me that she pretty much knew after talking to the me the first time, that I would be their au pair and as corny as it sounds, I felt the exact same thing. People always ask me, ”Weren’t you nervous about moving and living with a strange family in a strange land?” And my answer is always, ”Nope. I just had a good feeling about it.”
How did your host family prepare you for the experience?
My Finnish mom, Heini, was awesome at taking me through the process of moving to Finland. She was also very clear about what I’d be doing during my working hours. I was the family’s third American au pair, so she knew the application steps for the Finnish visa.(Since then I’ve learned that many European countries have au pair visas as well as stipulations about how much an au pair should be paid, how many hours she should work and what type of extra things need to be provided, usually language classes and housing.) Heini also put me in touch with their previous au pair and talking to her also helped me prepare for au pair life. She gave me tips not only about taking care of the kids, but tips about adjusting to life in Finland.
Can you tell us about an average day in the life of an au pair?
I started work early, although the exact time depended on the parents’ schedules. I helped get the kids ready for school. Once the house was quiet, I cleaned the house and did laundry. Then I made some lunch.
After that, I went to pick up the 5 year old from preschool. Sometimes we’d walk to the nearby beach, sometimes we went to the library or to the indoor swimming pool. We regularly went ice skating. Some days we’d make cookies, draw pictures, play with her toys, etc.
When the older kids came home, I’d make sure they did their homework before they headed off to play with their friends. Eventually I’d cook dinner. After dinner, I would do various things. Sometimes I’d ride my bike to the library or I’d go to Finnish language class.
Eventually, I had some close friends and I’d often take the bus into Helsinki to meet up with them. We’d go to bars, cafes or concerts. My weekends were free, I usually ended up hanging out with my Dutch friend, who was also an au pair. I also made some friends with some students at the University of Helsinki, they ended up showing me flea markets and all the best clubs for dancing. I also went on a few weekend trips; it was possible to take a short ferry ride to Tallinn, Estonia and a longer ferry ride to Stockholm.
How much money did you make as an au pair?
I don’t even remember the specific number! I know it wasn’t much, but it was enough to go out and to take a few trips to other European countries. It does seem that families will try to go beyond the required pay: they might pay for your round trip flight if you complete your contract, etc. Families provide their au pairs with room and board (it’s probably required by most countries). The room part can vary. I had a private apartment, but some of my au pair friends had a room and bathroom of their own in the house. So if you have a preference in housing, just look for families that offer what you want. My family made sure I never went hungry, Heini was constantly encouraging me to take snacks to my apartment.
Different families will ask you to do different things. My family didn’t like cooking, so they asked me to do it, but my friend’s family enjoyed cooking so the parents would do it. If you have a preference about what you want to do around the house, just look for families that want a similar thing.
What were the biggest challenges about your au pair experience?
I didn’t really have any challenges. I was very lucky that my family and I fit well together. They were flexible and I was flexible. But I’ve heard a number of horror stories from other au pairs: rude parents who take advantage of you and children who don’t listen and au pairs who don’t adapt.
What were the biggest benefits?
I have another family. I still keep in touch with them and I feel a swelling of love when I think about the five of them. They made sure that I became a part of their family. They took me to celebrate Christmas with their family in Northern Finland and they welcomed my family when they came to visit in the summer. Not only do I have another family that I love; I have another home. That tiny section of the world became my home. I made life long friends, rode my bike along the sea and figured out where to buy fabulous vintage clothes.
What did you take away from your experience?
It’s hard being a fake mom. When I started being an au pair I thought it would be fairly easy, love would just flow from me and I’d be patient and kind all the time. Wrong. I loved and still love those kids, but it was tough sometimes. I lost my patience with the kids and overreacted. I thought that being an au pair would make me excited about having kids myself, but in actually made me reconsider my desire to have children, in a good way. I realized that parenthood is a huge responsibility and one I’m not going to embark on until I know I’m ready.
After college, most of my friends got ‘real’ jobs, but I moved to a foreign country. It always seemed slightly scary to move to a new country, but I did it. While I didn’t begin my climb up the corporate ladder, I started off my adult life by achieving something on my own and making a dream come true. It helped me form one of my strongest opinions about life and travel. It seems scary to move to a new place, but do it once and you’ll realize it’s not scary! Friendships will form anywhere in the world.
Who would be a good fit for au pair work?
You must be extremely flexible and patient. You’re moving to a new country and into the home of a family. This family is from a different culture with different ways of doing things. The family is trusting you to take care of their kids. You will need to be patient. You will need a huge amount of flexibility to deal with the new situations and different ways of life. Basically, you need an open heart. – open to learning new things and open to a new way of life.
Any useful resources that you can recommend?
When you start communicating with a family, ask if you can get in touch with their previous au pair. They’ll probably be able to tell you about what to expect. Hopefully, they’ll even be able to tell you some cool places to check out, how to get around, etc.Resources!
Once a month, we’re going to talk about awesome/weird/adventurous jobs that you (maybe) didn’t even know existed and talk to people who have done them. If you’re sick of your current gig, get to applying! You can read about other awesome jobs here. This interview comes to us via the lovely Whitney Lenox.
Can you tell us about your experience working in the Grand Canyon?
First of all, let me clear up the myth that everyone who works at the Grand Canyon is a park ranger or mule wrangler. That just isn’t the case. There are loads of jobs out here, and the best part is, your back yard is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!
I work for Xanterra, the largest state and national park concessioner in the United States. I’m currently located at the Grand Canyon, and spend my working days as a cashier at a food court near the rim of the canyon. Though I’m overqualified for this position, I am happy to have my foot in the door of a company that boasts vast opportunities for advancement. I’m hoping to work my way into the HR department, specifically into a role as a trainer for newly hired employees. I have lots of room to grow here, and I’m excited about my future.
During my time off, I take long walks along the canyon, read books beneath the Ponderosa pines, and catch up on writing and other correspondence at the local public library. Life is slow and simple inside the park, and I’m happy to ease my pace while enjoying the wildlife and gorgeous landscapes.
Why did you decide to work in the national parks?
Ok, I’ll admit, I was one of those people who thought you had to be a ranger or wrangler. I hadn’t even considered working in a national park until a recent road trip. My boyfriend and I stopped at the Grand Canyon on our way back across the country, and we overheard an employee saying how much he enjoyed his job. Much to our surprise, the park, as well as many of the positions, are open year-round. It seemed like the opportunity had fallen into our laps for a reason.
We applied for jobs at the Human Resources department while we were visiting the park, and were hired just a few weeks after we returned home from our trip. We knew we’d be hired into positions that we were overqualified to do, but we took a risk to see if there was in fact, growth opportunity for us.We were also looking to ease back into life in the U.S., as we have spent the last few years living abroad in Asia. This company has allowed us to do just that, without planting too many roots. We have no car. We’ve signed no lease.
The application process is quite simple. For U.S. applicants, applying for a position using the appropriate online application is the first step. You must provide several, recent work references along with your application. The hiring manager will then review the completed application and references.
This process can take up to six weeks for entry level positions, while skilled trade and/or supervisory positions may take longer. If the hiring manager is interested in the applicant, they will contact the applicant directly with a job offer and a start date.
International student’s with J-1 visa status are also encouraged to apply for seasonal positions and internships. Loads of other helpful information about the hiring process can be found on Xanterra’s website.
What’s an average work day like?
I usually work from 9-5p or 12-9p most days. I don a green and black uniform, tie up my hair, and get my register ready for a busy shift serving hungry travelers. My cashier job is easy, and it affords me loads of time to connect with travelers from all over the world. Meeting people is my favorite part of the job, and it is easy when the guests are just so excited to be here. I connect with people about my travels in Asia, make suggestions for folks currently on road trips, and give lots of directions and advice about various areas and activities in the park. For many guests, this is a “bucket list” trip, and I feel happy knowing that I’ve positively contributed to their experience.
How much money are you earning?
I am earning just above minimum wage for the time being. In addition to pay, the dormitory that I share with my boyfriend only cost me $16/week. I also get 50% off meals, laundry and uniforms are free, and the shuttles around the park allow me to live without a car. My expenses here are so low, I am currently living off just $10 a day. Simple living at its finest.
Who would be a good fit for this work?
While it’s great to live next to a natural wonder, this place is not for the faint of heart. The park has its own (slow) rhythm, living with a roommate can be challenging, and being contained in a tiny town can seem mundane at times. If you’re someone who can go out and make your own adventures, exhibit flexibility and patience, and display cultural sensitivity to guests and coworkers, you’ll be appropriately prepared to enjoy all the perks of being here. You also might fit one of the following descriptions:
Outdoorsy-types looking to work where they play. College students seeking seasonal work or internships. Gypsies, like me, who love to try new places without planting roots. Anyone looking for advancement opportunities in hospitality, food & beverage, or retail departments. Park hoppers who would like to live and work in various national parks across the country.
What are some of the best resources to help someone prepare for this work?
Make sure park living is right for you by checking out this link before you apply.
Browse through the frequently asked questions here.