Rachel Alatalo '18

Though it was one of the most competitive programs I’ve ever applied for, the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) was the easiest program to apply to. Don’t get me wrong, the qualifications are rigorous, and the competition is fierce (last year, the Argentina program accepted 24 out of about 230 applicants). But the support I got at Hamilton during the application process was incredible, and made the process incredibly simple.

I worked with Student Fellowships Coordinator Ginny Dosch, who provided me with samples of successful applications and frequent appointments as I made my way through the application process. She’s incredibly experienced in the Fulbright application, and made a ton of suggestions on everything from when to ask for recommendations to how to word my personal statement. I highly recommend that anyone interested in applying for a Fulbright works with Ginny.

The most difficult part of the application process was organization. There are several parts of the application, and each has a particular format. For the Argentina ETA application, I had to find three recommendations and a language evaluation from professors and supervisors--which meant I had to find four people who could write those recommendations and make contact with them early enough that they could meet the deadline as well. Also, though the two essays in the application are only a page each, they are also only a page long. It was difficult to organize my thoughts as concisely as possible and still describe as many of my qualifications as possible.

Clearly, anyone interested in applying for a Fulbright grant should be organized, but the best thing to have is a compelling reason for choosing the country you’re applying for. As I mentioned before, Fulbright grants are extremely competitive, and the applicants are extremely qualified, so the difference between getting accepted and getting denied could come down to your story. Ginny told me my essays should describe not why I wanted to go to Argentina, but why I needed to go.

So why do I need to go to Argentina? To me, the opportunity to spend 8 months teaching English there is the perfect marriage of the creative writing and Hispanic studies concentrations I studied at Hamilton. I’ve loved the literature of Argentina since I studied it my sophomore year, and hope living there will help me for a future career in literary translation. Such a career requires not only knowledge of the original language, but the culture as well. Being in the country a work of literature was written in would be the best way to get to know the culture.

At least, that’s what I wrote in my admissions essay. The only thing I can really expect to get out of the experience is the unexpected, and the opportunity to adapt to it.

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