My experience as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) was incredibly rewarding, allowed me to continue learning about other cultures, and helped affirm my desire to pursue a career as a mental health therapist. As a student at Austin College, I studied psychology and Spanish. I went on JanTerms to Argentina and Spain, and took classes that ignited my passion for understanding human nature and other cultures. As a Fulbrighter in Malaysia, I taught English to middle and high school students and led extracurricular activities to help students increase their confidence with the English language. More importantly, I was an informal ambassador of the US, charged with helping to increase mutual understanding between our two countries. I left Malaysia with an in-depth appreciation of other cultures, life-long connections with people across the globe, and skills and ideas that have helped me in my professional development as a therapist.
I got to know some of my students well and was even invited into family homes for holidays. Students shared personal issues with me: one student disclosed to me that she was being bullied due to her skin color. Being able to connect with other people on an emotional level, despite language and cultural differences, helped me strengthen the skills needed to attune to and genuinely understand clients. Through my Fulbright experience, I learned that I could be an empathetic, attentive, trustworthy, and nonjudgmental figure for others who yearned to be understood, and these characteristics guide me as a therapist today. Regardless of culture or age, language or nationality, people just want to be acknowledged and accepted. The Fulbright experience provided me the opportunity to do just that.