Fulbright Scholarships

I have always enjoyed travelling, and about six years ago I discussed with my wife the possibility of taking a sabbatical for a semester to teach overseas.  She loved the idea and the experience it would give our children. So, I found one organization that offers the opportunity, the Fulbright International Teacher Exchange Program.  At the time we owned a business and would not be able to be overseas for a full a year, but there was a semester opportunity in the United Kingdom.

Of course, there were pages and pages of paperwork to fill out, application essays to write, and requests for recommendations to be garnered.  I filled in all of the blanks on every kind of form, wrote creative essays, and asked supervisors and coworkers to write about my strengths and my abilities.  I was overwhelmed  and humbled with how many people stepped forward to get me out of the country.  Some even offered to pay for my airfare.  I have the best friends and colleagues.

With all of this support, I made it to the interview.  I was confident that I would be chosen until I found out my family would be interviewed also.  No one can predict how children will act.

We had read children’s books about Great Britain to the kids and watched videos about the country and culture to try to prepare our children for the experience.  We thought we covered everything;  however, as Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”

During the family interview, one of my sons (about five years old at the time) misbehaved.  He played with chairs, an overhead projector, and seemed to sabotage my chances with silly answers.  We left the interview feeling like all of our work was for naught.  When we asked him why he misbehaved, he replied, “I thought we would leave right then, and I did not pack all of my toys.”  It was hard to be angry at his logic.

I learned that miscommunications can happen.  I need to roll with adversity and make the most of it.

It turns out that I passed the interviews despite my son’s antics.  However, the program allows the teachers from Great Britain to get to pick the exchange position.  There were 50 American teachers chosen for two Great British positions.  I do not know where the other 49 American teachers lived, but Columbus, Ohio,  would not be one of my choices if I was coming from England.  I would choose Florida or the West Coast or anywhere else.  And, of course, that is what the two teachers did.

Sometimes we do our best, but some things are beyond our control.  Nevertheless, we continue to do our best.

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2 Comments

Filed under Lessons from students

2 responses to “Fulbright Scholarships

  1. Fatima Foy

    Hi Mr. Watros –
    First, I’ve been having fun reading your blog, please keep it up! Second I’m sorry that try didn’t work out and I really hope you get the opportunity to teach overseas soon, but I do have to take issue with the statement that a British teacher would not want to come to Columbus. Some of the very best travel I’ve done has been to the most non-descript places. In fact, that’s where most of the magic happens because you can live like a local, challenge yourself to blend in, and people don’t automatically assume you’re a tourist and try to sell you a keychain or coffee mug.
    Take Venlo, NL for example. I’d never heard of it before I was sent there for work, not even Dutch people go there unless they have to, and I found myself in a tiny Dutch town, with one Mexican restaurant, a lousy bowling alley, and wonderful people who gave me the best introduction to the real Netherlands.
    Traveling to nowhere eliminates the glossy tourist traps. Everyone you encounter wants to know why you came here, and often they are really appreciative that you’re traveling for the experience and not to just have your picture taken in the last remaining red British phone booth so you can X it off the bucket list.
    Big tourist cities are great, and I’ll freely admit that the Dutch have a particular affinity for Florida, but in my opinion the way to really experience a country is to live right alongside the median population, and they aren’t the ones strolling down the Champs Elysees. If I were a teacher that’s exactly why I would pick Columbus – not only is it pretty central to some major cities,(you can be in New York in 2 hours) but you get exposure to normal life and you get to interact with people who aren’t cosmopolitan and are as excited to get to know “someone from” as you are to get to know them. Tom and I always pick some random towns when we go to Europe, we’ve stayed in small towns like Delft, Liége, and Bremen – and we rarely saw another tourist which in my opinion is the best way to travel.

    • Thanks for the reply Fatima. I can agree with you on the traveling part. My first reaction is that people want to travel to see the sights. Columbus does not have the same sights as Orlando, NY, Boston, etc. I, too, like to see the culture. I will have to write more about our families trips to Harrison, NE. Talk about another culture.

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