U.S. ETA Program
The Fulbright Program in Korea seeks to build mutual understanding and share knowledge across communities while enhancing the lives of grantees. As part of the United States Government’s flagship international exchange program, Fulbright grantees join a global network striving to promote a more peaceful world. In the process, grantees enrich educations, advance careers, and make meaningful contributions to the communities, and the world, in which they live.
Established in 1992, the Fulbright Korea English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program is designed for young American college graduates seeking to engage in cultural exchange by teaching English in Korean schools and interacting with their local communities, thereby contributing to U.S.-Korea relations. The program is a 12-month long grant funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Korean Ministry of Education (MOE) along with its partnering Korean Boards of Education and local host institutions. This historic partnership stands at the center of the grant program’s administrating organization, the Korean-American Educational Commission, otherwise known as Fulbright Korea.
ETA grantees undergo a 6-week orientation training period that includes intensive Korean language instruction, teaching, and cultural workshops, and various activities and opportunities to bond with their fellow ETAs before going to their placement schools. ETAs participate in two annual conferences to continue their professional development and bring new skills and insights back to their host institutions. Throughout the grant year, ETAs become active, engaged members of their communities and have the unique opportunity to continue their ETA experience for up to two additional years. Renewal grants are awarded based on satisfactory cultural adjustment, teaching performance, and available teaching positions.
To apply for the Fulbright Korea ETA Program, visit us.fulbrightonline.org.
The Establishment of the ETA Program
The binational agreement in 1950 between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America governments established the Fulbright Program in Korea. But with the start of the Korean War soon after, the program’s goals were put on hold. At the end of the war, as the nation began rebuilding itself, so too did Fulbright Korea, opening its doors and sending its first cohort of Korean scholars to America in 1963. In 1972, the Korean-American Educational Commission (KAEC) was established. With the rebuilding of the nation and renewal of the Fulbright Program in Korea, came a new focus on the promotion of education for a globalized world. When the Peace Corp Program departed Korea in 1981, KAEC turned its eye towards becoming a leader in the field of English education in Korea. A new program was discussed—the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program.
The ETA Program in Korea was established with the following goals in mind. The program’s immediate short-term objective was to enhance the teaching of English in Korean primary and middle schools. But for a country rebuilding itself after the Korean war and looking to new horizons, several long-term objectives accompanied the program. KAEC believed that the ETA program would help foster a “critical mass” of young Americans who would have firsthand knowledge and experience of Korea. Armed with basic Korean skills and real lived experiences with Koreans and Korean culture, these young Americans would go on to be well suited and well prepared to make meaningful contributions to the growth of U.S.-Korea relations. The Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program in Korea proposal was heartily approved in 1991.
The History of the ETA Program
In 1992, when the first 12 ETAs arrived in Korea, grantees were given teaching assignments in middle and high schools around the Korean peninsula. After receiving training for two to three weeks, they left for their placements, staying in homestays. In their placements, they co-taught with a certified Korean teacher, conducted English conversation lessons, and spent time assisting teachers with lesson planning, homework corrections, and other teaching duties. Grantees conducted research, pursued Korean language study, and engaged with local community members in their free time. Grantees also participated in two training sessions during the year.
The first cohort set the formula for the ETA program. A teaching assistant program that ensured its teachers were well-adjusted, supported, and prepared for their grant work. What started as a program with only 12 grantees has grown, becoming a “gold standard” program that welcomes over 100 grantees each year. During their grant year, ETA grantees teach English in underserved K-12 schools, engage in Korean language learning and cultural exchange, and increase mutual understanding between Korean and American citizens.
Fulbright’s Global Network
After completing their grant year, U.S. Fulbright ETAs to Korea become part of a global network of nearly 400,000 Fulbright exchange participants who have made meaningful contributions to the building of cooperation and peace over the program’s history. In today’s complex and changing world, the continued place of international educational and cultural exchange in creating lasting connections and mutual understanding has never been more apparent and never more needed. The Fulbright Program in Korea is honored to continue its legacy of supporting U.S. Students for the betterment of the United States, Korea, and the world.
To apply for the Fulbright Korea ETA Program, visit us.fulbrightonline.org
To learn more about the Fulbright Program’s history in Korea, read Fulbright in Korea’s Future.
The Fulbright ETA Award is a full-time English Teaching Assistant (ETA) position. While this section gives an insight into the ETA experience, it is important to note that each ETA experience is unique and that no two ETA experiences are exactly alike.
There are nine provinces in South Korea, and there are ETAs placed in every province in Korea, including Jeju Island. Each province has its own unique characteristics, food, history, and regional language. The placement of ETAs in every province allows ETA grantees the opportunity to see parts of Korea they would never have otherwise. While some ETAs are placed in major metropolitan areas such as Seoul and Daegu, most ETAs are placed in smaller towns and cities around the country—aligning with Fulbright Korea’s mission of serving underserved populations. It should be noted that while first-year ETAs may be placed in a metropolitan area, no first-year ETAs are placed in Seoul.
Some ETA grantees are placed with other ETAs, but some grantees are placed by themselves. The nature of placements varies greatly, from rural towns to large metropolitan cities. However, public transportation and inter-city transportation via bus and train are more advanced than their counterparts in U.S. As such, all ETAs can meet others in their cohort regularly with relative ease.
ETA grantees fulfill the role of full-time teachers in Korean primary or secondary schools. They teach and work alongside their Korean co-workers, becoming an integral part of the school. While doing so, they also take on the role of a cultural ambassador, allowing students and faculty to see another side of the U.S. through their lessons, discussions, demeanor, and shared experiences. ETAs usually do the following at school:
- Teach up to 22 classes during the 40-hour school week
- Build curriculums and plan lessons for classes based on self-selected topics and/or approved textbook curriculum materials
- Conduct a summer English camp for students interested in English
- Lead an after-school club
All ETAs are assigned a Fulbright co-teacher that serves as the primary point of contact between the school and the ETA. The Fulbright co-teacher may be an English teacher or another staff member. ETAs usually co-teach alongside their certified English teacher co-workers. Classroom involvement by co-teachers varies greatly between different grade and English ability levels.
Fulbright Korea offers two unique housing accommodations for its ETAs grantees. All housing arrangements are made by the affiliated host school with parameters set by the Korean-American Educational Commission (KAEC). The two housing accommodations are shared living facilities in the form of homestays and private living facilities in the way of studio apartments.
Many first-year ETAs live in homestays. However, some first-year ETAs live in small studio apartments, referred to as “one-rooms” (원룸). Second and third-year renewal ETAs typically live in one-rooms. Regardless of their housing accommodation type, former ETAs report that the unique situation of living in Korea, combined with an intrinsic motivation to explore the community around them, leads to unforgettable experiences.
While an ETA’s cultural ambassador role is primarily played out in the classroom, most ETAs also interact with their community through a variety of extracurricular activities. When ETAs are not teaching or planning lessons for their students, they travel the country, take classes, volunteer, and during vacations, engage in short internships.
Examples of such of activities are:
- North Korean Defector (NKD) student tutoring
- Infusion – Fulbright Korea’s literary magazine
- Youth Activism and Diplomacy Conference (YDAC)
- Korea Bridge Initiative (KBI)
- Volunteer at Korean orphanage events
- Korean language classes
- Traditional fine arts classes (e.g., gayageum, calligraphy, hanji paper)
- Dance classes (e.g., fan dance, K-pop, hip-hop)
To apply for the U.S. Student Program, visit us.fulbrightonline.org
Applications for the Fulbright ETA grant must be submitted through fulbrightonline.org. This website is administered by the Institute for International Education (IIE).
The national application deadline for the 2021-2022 academic/program year is October 13, 2020. For a timeline of the award application and review process, visit fulbrightonline.org
If applying through a U.S. higher education institution, the institution may also have internal deadlines for Fulbright applicants. Please reach out to the Fulbright Program Advisor at your institution to discuss internal deadlines. You can search for a Fulbright Program Advisor at us.fulbrightonline.org
Yes, Korean-Americans can apply for the Fulbright ETA program. However, Korean-Americans who have dual Korean and American citizenship are ineligible to accept a grant. Any applicants who have dual citizenship must give up their Korean citizenship before accepting the Fulbright Korea ETA grant. Those of Korean-American heritage must read the U.S. Applicant Advisory and contact their nearest Korean consulate or embassy before applying.
No, Fulbright grants cannot be deferred. If a grant candidate is unable to accept a grant, they may decline the grant award and re-apply in following years. Extensions to grant start dates are also not permitted.
In principle, ETA awards are not extendable. However, renewals of ETA grants for up to two years (for a total of three years) are available and awarded based on placement availability, satisfactory cultural adjustment, and teaching performance.
No, ETA host affiliations are the local schools that the ETA is placed at and works with for the grant year. No university affiliation or invitation letters are required for the ETA award.
Applicants must be under the age of 30 years old at the time of application. If an applicant turns 30 between the applicant submission date and grant year start date, or turns 30 during the grant year, it is acceptable.
No, dependents (a spouse or minors) are not allowed to accompany the grantee to Korea. Dependents and qualifying dependent allowances are only available to Open Study/Research awardees within the Fulbright U.S. Student Programs in Korea.
KAEC looks for well-rounded college graduates under the age of 30 who have an interest in Korea and furthering U.S.-Korean relations by engaging in cross-cultural exchange.
The ETA Program does not require any language proficiency in order to apply. However, it is highly recommended that all ETA applicants have at least a novice understanding of Korean before arriving in Korea. A novice understanding will help bolster learning during the intensive language program during the 6-week orientation period. In addition, interest and solid base in Korean language skills also greatly improve daily life and interactions during the grant year.
No, language evaluation forms are not required for the ETA program application. However, while language evaluation forms are not required, it does give selection committees more information and can be advantageous to your application. If an applicant is unable to acquire a language evaluation it will have a neutral effect on the candidate’s competitiveness.
Grantees that meet the 120-hour certification criteria with a TESOL/TEFL/CELTA certification and/or major in TESOL do not need to get re-certified. However, for the requirement to be waived, they must submit sufficient documentation verifying their certification after grant acceptance.
General Program Questions
ETA candidates must cover the costs of an FBI criminal background check and apostille. In addition, ETA candidates must pay for a medical evaluation, T.B. test, and drug test. KAEC also highly suggests that its ETA finalist candidates pay for IRS Form 6166 (Certification of U.S. Tax Residency) before embarking on their grant.
ETAs are placed all over the Korean peninsula, in every province in Korea. They are placed in elementary, middle, and high schools. ETA grantees typically receive their placement during the Orientation training period. First-year ETAs are placed in areas outside of the Seoul metropolitan areas. Only second and third-year ETAs are placed in Seoul.
Yes, Orientation attendance is a mandatory requirement for the ETA grant. All ETA awardees, regardless of their experience with Korea or teaching, gain new skills and insights instrumental to their success during the grant year during Orientation.
Fulbright Korea includes housing as a guaranteed grant benefit. While Fulbright Korea does its best to ensure that ETAs have appropriate housing, actual housing accommodations are arranged by the local school partners themselves.
Fulbright Students are allowed 14 calendar days of personal leave to travel internationally during the award period. ETA grantees are only allowed to go abroad during the summer vacation period.
Life in Korea
The ability to avoid foods that make you allergic depends on the severity of your allergies. While Korea’s understanding of allergies is continuously changing, Korean people’s perception of allergies is different from Americans, and food preparation is done differently. These differences present various challenges and situations ETAs must navigate primarily on their own once they’re in their placements. And while applicants may be used to navigating such difficulties at home, they should be at least slightly aware of the challenges they could face here. We suggest all students do research on navigating life in Korea with allergies and speak with their medical provider to develop an appropriate plan before applying or accepting an award.
Your homestay may be able to accommodate your food allergies, depending on the allergies in question and their financial situation. However, ETA applicants who are placed in a homestay may also need to supplement their diet occasionally. They may also need to educate the homestay family about any diet restrictions. Schools typically list the top allergens in their food; special meals might be available upon request but are generally unavailable.
Certain prescription drugs are considered controlled substances and subject to the regulations established by the Korean Food and Drug Administration and the Korean Customs Service. While most medication in the USA can be found in Korea, some medication that is available in the USA is not approved in Korea. Applicants who anticipate needing to manage a condition with certain medications should consult their doctor and make informed decisions before applying for or accepting a grant.