The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship ( ETA ) program places American college graduates as teachers in elementary and secondary schools across South Korea. Beginning in 1992 with just eight grantees, the program now brings almost 90 Americans to Korea each year. Fulbright Korea’s ETA program has been benchmarked as the “Gold Standard” among all ETA programs worldwide by the U.S. State Department. The program is the largest among all Fulbright Commissions, boasting nearly 1,100 program participants since its founding. It is highly regarded for its innovative training, unmatched program benefits, and access to the Fulbright Korea alumni network, which consists of more than 3,600 American and Korean scholars, researchers, and specialists.
The Korean Ministry of Education is particularly supportive of the ETA program for stressing the importance of placing native English speaking teachers outside of Seoul, and particularly in less developed areas of Korea. ETAs in return feel that their efforts have more meaning where students are not yet accustomed to seeing foreigners on a daily basis.
Each year several ETA alumni gain entrance into prestigious law, medical, and graduate programs across the United States. Recent ETA alumni are currently studying at Harvard, Columbia, the University of California - Berkeley, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Several ETAs also choose to remain in or return to Korea in order to teach at Korean universities, work for international firms or enroll in Korean graduate schools.
Who are Fulbright Korea English Teaching Assistants (ETAs)?
Fulbright Korea ETAs are young American citizens who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree level of schooling and are passionate about cultural exchange through civil service. ETAs have come from a variety of backgrounds in studies including political science, medicine, global studies, English literature, art, education, Korean studies and more. Most importantly, ETAs care about their role as a teacher in the Korean education system and dedicate a full year (or more) to being a force of positive encouragement to their students. Also, ETAs have the unique opportunity to live in a Korean homestay, exposing them to the Korean family unit and communal aspects of Korean life.
Some notable Fulbright Korea ETA alumni include:
Joseph Ableidinger (1999) - Consultant for Public Impact, noted for his restructuring of school models and teacher roles
Tanya Biank (1993) - Author of Army Wives, basis for the Lifetime Television Network drama “Army Wives,” syndicated columnist, guest speaker and military volunteer
Stacy Birdsell (2000) - Founding principal of Democracy Prep Blackstone Valley Charter Schools
Allis Ghim (1995) - Head of Japan and Taiwan, eBay, Inc.
Balbina Hwang (1998) - Senior Policy Analyst, Asian Studies Center, Heritage Foundation
Robert Kafalenos (1992) - Environmental Protections Specialist, US Dept of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
Christine Kim Bautista (1995) - Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel
Ashley Juliette Quarcoo (2001) - Deputy Africa Coordinator, US Agency for International Development
Dennis A. Shorts (2001) - Strategic Communication Analyst, US Forces in Korea
Rhea Sun Suh (1992) - Assistant Secretary for Policy and Management, US Department of the Interior
Who are the ETAs' Students?
Most ETAs are currently teaching in middle schools and high schools, while our elementary ETA program continues to grow each year. Students may be enrolled in coeducational or single-sex institutions. Korean students vary in their English levels, challenging ETAs to come up with creative teaching solutions to ensure the success of all students. English is a mandatory part of the Korean education system; students who are proficient in English generally get into top universities, creating a strong desire for many students to study very hard. Life at school is centered on studying, as students generally arrive around 8 am and study late into the night, many past 10 or 11 pm at either a hagwon (private institution) or at their school. Top grades on standardized tests and getting into top universities are among the most valued aspects of Korean culture. ETAs have a unique opportunity to create a special bond with their students by using English in a more fun, less stressful atmosphere. Hear from one ETA’s student in the video below.
Application and Helpful Links
Those interested in applying for the ETA program in Korea may do so via the Institute of International Education (IIE)'s website (http://us.fulbrightonline.org/applynow.html). IIE, whose headquarters are located in New York, is responsible for processing applications for all American Fulbright student awards, including the English Teaching Assistant Program. For further information on the application process, contact Jonathan Akeley, IIE Pacific/East Asia Program Officer, at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. KAEC does not accept applications from Americans directly.
The application deadline for the 2012-2013 competition is now closed. Please check the application page often for more updates about the 2013-2014 Fulbright grant cycle.
In the summer of 2012, the Fulbright Korea Commission will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the ETA program. Events will include a weekend celebration in New York in May for ETA alumni and a reception at the Ambassador’s residence in Seoul in June. At the Alumni reunion in May, we will announce the official launch of the Fulbright Korea Alumni Association as well as distribute the 20th Anniversary ETA Commemorative Publication, a collection of stories and memories from a variety of ETA alumni. We look forward to the next 20 years and more of the ETA program in Korea!
Fulbright Korea 60th Anniversary
Fulbright Korea celebrated its 60th Anniversary in 2010 with a variety of commemorative events and publications. Since the Commission’s inception, Fulbright Korea has been dedicated to the promotion of cross-cultural understanding through education and civil service, creating the event’s theme of “Toward Peace in Korea and the World.” With two major events, one in Seoul and one in Washington DC, former and current Scholars were able to celebrate with dignitaries and figures from the international education community. Messages from both Presidents Barack Obama and Lee Myung-Bak were delivered to the participants at the event. Fulbright Korea also published “Fulbright in Korea’s Future: A 60th Anniversary Commemorative History,” which included stories from previous scholars, a detailed historical look at Fulbright’s impact in Korea and more. For a complete list of events, programs, publications and photos from the event, please visit our 60th Anniversary Commemorative webpage.
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