Saturday, December 10, 2005

My Fulbright Interview

I had to get up on the early side - and be coherent - today because I had my Fulbright Teacher Exchange interview. I did it last year, so I wasn't that nervous until I actually arrived. My morning coffee combined with the nervous energy in the "Fulbright lounge" - waiting room - made me very jittery. I wished I'd dressed up more. I wished I had brought a teaching portfolio, even though I knew that was entirely unnecessary. I wished I had consumed less coffee. I wished......

The interviewing panels were very far behind schedule, so I waited for a long time, chatting with the other applicants. It was interesting to discover that most of the NYC applicants - and some applicants from outside the city - were having trouble getting supervisor and administrative approval for taking a leave of absence to participate in the program. Some principals were concerned about test scores falling, others about NCLB regulations regarding qualified teachers, others about the quality of the incoming exchange teacher. I understand the concerns to some extent, but it's also extremely frustrating. The Fulbright program is a prestigious program; schools should be proud of their teachers for going out and seeking this experience. It is also administered by the State Dept. Besides, standing in the way of your staff's passions and professional growth is the fastest way to drive good people out of your school. Also, I guess it's not the first time that one federal program (Senator Fulbright's vision of international cultural exchanges) should be in conflict with another (NCLB) but it is disheartening, nonetheless. My principal is anxious about it, but she knows that she needs to support me in this.

My interview was very brief. I think that they saw that I'd been through the process before and saw a chance to gain back some lost time. They asked about my choices of countries, and focused quite a bit on what I expected to encounter in Turkey. We talked about how different it might be to be a woman in a Muslim country, and how I would handle that, and also how I would handle any anti-American sentiment that I might face. I knew I would get those questions, and I was ready for them. The role of women in Turkey is an issue that I don't take lightly, as I'm so independent and accustomed to doing whatever I please. Nevertheless, I feel that I would take some time talking to people and paying attention to what is happening around me to figure out how to be respectful while being true to myself and my beliefs. In the end, it seems more important to do exchanges with people from cultures that are more challenging for us, where there might be some conflict, because that is how we all grow and become able to reach out to each other and understand where others are coming from. Anyway, I think the interview went well. Now I just wait until the spring to find out if I have been matched with anyone. Last year, I was very anxious to find out. This year, in my campaign to manage my expectations of actually doing the program, I think it will be easier for me to wait.


Blogger Ms. M said...

Good Luck. I hope you get to go to Turkey. How exciting.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I don't understand why applicants are worried about not getting permission to leave for a year. According to the UFT webpage:

Article 16 of our contract states:

Leaves of absence without pay shall be granted upon application to teachers on regular appointment for the following purposes:

Acceptance of a teaching position in a foreign country for one year, with such leave renewable for an additional year. Such teaching position shall be sponsored or approved by the government of the United States.

If Fullbright scholarships are sponsored by the State Department, it would seem there is no problem at all.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous ms. chalky talk said...

Things may be different in Turkey - I am sure very different. But one of our math teachers grew up in Turkey, went to Turkish schools, and graduated with a degree in civil (?) engineering. So independent women are not completely unheard of in Turkey.

I wish you the best of luck.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

I hope you get it!

1:40 PM  
Blogger leisuretronic said...

I had my fulbright interview yesterday in vienna. was quite thrilling, I must say. The moment I was entering I thought that right now I am unable to merely pronounce my name, let alone the purpose of my application for a fulbright scholarship.

I was surprised (ok, I was naive) that the panel was so well prepared. It was not what I would call a "chat", you see. They actually wanted to know everything about my goals and plans, they wanted to know more than what I knew about my future. At one point the chairman started to talk to me about Austrian Economics (I am Austrian; and I apply for a PhD in economics; the chairman's deduction that I therefore know a lot about Austrian Economics[= historic line of economic thought, not in the sense of "the Austrian economy" - it's getting complicated now] and he was wrong, I don't know anything) and I terribly landed on my face. Well, maybe it was not that bad after all. We will see.

I see by now that I was not optimally prepared. Some guy I know told me that the interview in fact would be more like a chat, you know, questions on "how will you face the cultural shock?" or "Americans are friendly but they don't make friends: how do want to deal with that?" and that sort of stuff. Instead, the panel wanted to know how my work can add social value to society and what mathematical software-packages I am familiar with. I answered all the questions satisfactorily (don't know if that word exists), but my performance there was an improvisation from A-Z. maybe I have to try again as well, who knows.

at any rate let me (us) know the result of your application. maybe you want to take a look at my blog (which is only at an emerging stage, but still...) where I will post something on my fulbright-experience. Until now there's only some nice pictures of Vienna (which is very nice doubtlessly).
(I don't know if my blog shows up automatically, so here it is:

see you around

10:57 AM  
Blogger mewmewmew said...

Oh yeah, you can't substitute margarine for this one. Milk seems to work all right, though, but don't use skim. My mom has the footprint cookie cutter, too! She has several dozen cookie cutters, for every season and holiday you can imagine...

Sightline Payments

11:38 AM  

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