Evelyn Adams was a 2019-2020 ETA in Luxembourg. Now that she is settled back home in the US we organized a virtual meeting to interview her so she could share her experience with Fulbright. She shared some memorable moments, advice, and difficulties she had. Instead of a blogpost we decided to connect more with the grantees and suggested sharing their story through an interview.
Can you tell us who you are and what you did on your Fulbright grant ?
I am Ev Adams, I am from Williamsport Pennsylvania. As for my Fulbright grant, I was in Luxembourg, where I was an English Teaching Assistant. Specifically, I was in Differdange which is near the French border. I was working at an International school called the ‘École Internationale de Differdange et Esch-sur-Alzette’. It is a public international school which is becoming more and more popular in Luxembourg because it is such an international country. So, that was really cool, and it is only about 4 years old! It was really exciting to be a part of a pretty new school. I spent some of my time with one primary class, they are about ten years old. The rest of my time is divided between five different secondary classes which is also a really great experience.
What inspired you to apply for the Fulbright ETA Program ?
I would say that for as long as I can remember, I have always been so interested in learning about new languages, learning about new cultures and different countries. Like for example, I started taking French classes as early as possible and Spanish and Latin, because why not? I also thought myself some Italian! But of course, you can only learn so much from a textbook. The way that you learn those things is by being reversed in the country and in that new culture. So, when I was looking into colleges to go to, at first I didn’t know in what I wanted to major in. But I knew I wanted to study abroad. So, I looked into schools that had a really good study abroad program. And I was fortunate that I was able to do that in my spring of my junior year of college. I did a program called Sweet Briar junior year in France, it was fully immersive in French and French language. And I was also able to do a lot of travelling independently, which was really the first time I had done that. That was so exciting for me and I also realized that the more that I travel the more that I really realize I was so similar to all of these people that I was meeting even though our home countries are thousands of miles apart. In so many ways we were very similar.
So, the first time I heard about Fulbright was when I had a few friends who applied for English Teaching Assistant positions, for the 2018-2019. When I heard that they were doing that, I knew right away that I wanted to apply the next year myself.
Why Luxembourg ?
That is always THE question! (laughingly) Yeah, I get that all the time. Even though I knew pretty early on that I wanted to do Fulbright, I didn’t know exactly which country I wanted to apply for. You have to pick just one, which is so hard! At least for me it was a really difficult choice.
First of all, with my French background I knew I wanted to apply to a francophone country so I could practice my language skills and so I could really engage with community members a little bit easier. And then beyond that, I wanted to apply to a country where I’d never been before because I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone a little bit and really experience something different. So, of course, that narrows down the world a little bit. And then beyond that, the more research I did about Luxembourg, the more it really intrigued me. For one thing, it’s not a country that people visit very often. If they do, it’s, you know, maybe for half a day, a few hours as they pass through to go somewhere else. And it’s not a country that’s in the news very frequently or it’s really talked about. So, the fact that it’s in some ways sort of forgotten was really interesting to me and really compelled me. Additionally, I’m a little bit of a self-defined linguistic nut. And in Luxembourg, there are three official languages. You have French, German and Luxembourgish. And the research I have done showed that people just sort of switch from one language to another in different contexts or depending on where you are in the country, they use one for a different reason and that was something that I found really interesting. And then also it’s so international to which I think I talked about a little bit earlier, but 50 percent of their population are from different countries. So it’s so exciting to be a part of that and to experience that.
What was the most memorable moment of the program for you?
Well, for everyone I know that 2020 has been a pretty unprecedented and trying year. Here we are sitting, you know, working from home and from computer screens. And that’s very difficult. For me, of course I had to come home earlier than anticipated. And that was, of course, very disappointing. But also, in a weird way, it made me feel even more connected to my Luxembourgish community because of how kind everyone was. So, for example, when things started getting bad in Luxembourg, all my colleagues at the school I worked with were reaching out to me. They were checking in, trying to figure out what they could do to help. My friends through the Erasmus Program University they were all reaching out to see what they could do and they were sending me really encouraging messages. When I found out that I had to leave my ultimate frisbee team that I joined, they lamented with me. One of them even drove me to the airport at 4:00 in the morning. So all those things really showed how I had formed this really strong community. And even though I had to leave now, I know that I can always return to it. So I know that’s not one specific moment, but I think that feeling attitude is definitely what I’m going to keep with me for the next 20 years, 30 years, however long.
Now that you are back in the USA, how do you think your life will be changed — academically, professionally, or personally — as a result of participating in the program?
The thing about living abroad is I feel like everyday sort of mundane tasks like going grocery shopping. All of a sudden when you’re in a new environment, when you’re new to a country, it can be an adventure, which seems kind of silly, but it’s true and it allows for so much personal and professional growth. For me personally, Fulbright gave me, of course, a lot of teaching experience. I learned that I really, really loved teaching and I was able to prepare lessons independently as well as teach in front of whole classes independently. And that was such a great experience. Of course, those skills are transferable. So it’s , you know, project management, it’s interpersonal communication, it’s leadership. And I think beyond anything else it’s confidence. If you can speak in front of a whole classroom full of teenagers who are probably half asleep, I think you can speak in front of anyone. And then beyond that, I guess a little bit more personally, Fulbright has connected me with a global community of Fulbright alumni. There’s a huge, huge network of Fulbrighters around. And I met them through seminars, through events at the U.S. embassy or just alumni events, even LinkedIn connections. Anyway, there’s so many different platforms or so many different ways to be able to connect with people. And they provided me so much personal and professional support. I honestly think that whenever I meet new Fulbright alumni, my heart skips a beat. It’s exciting. It sounds cheesy, but there are some of the most driven and passionate people that I have ever met. And it’s always such an honor to meet another Fulbrighter.
What advice would you give to someone who is hesitating to apply for a Fulbright grant?
So as I just said, since accepting the Fulbright grant, I’ve been able to connect with a lot of other Fulbrighters. And I guarantee you that not one person regrets applying for Fulbright. And I know that it can be really daunting to leave the life that you have, you know, leave friends, family members, maybe even leave a job for a year. For me personally, I was a senior at college and when I applied, a lot of my friends were applying for jobs in New York City or Boston or Washington, D.C. and they were finding apartments with their college roommates. And they’re all going to be together for the most part. And here I am planning on packing all of my life into a singular suitcase and move to a continent where I don’t know a single person, that’s really scary. At the same time, you have your whole life to work “conventional job”. And so now is the time to take that leap. And there is no age restriction on doing Fulbright. There is no minimum maximum amount of experience you need per say so I would say my advice would be if you’re thinking about it even at all. Just go for it. And I promise you that you won’t regret it.
Evelyn Adams was a 2019-2020 ETA grantee in Luxembourg. As an International Affairs and French double major at Lafayette College, Ev participated in various language teaching programs and instructed in both French and English. She is excited to continue sharing her passion for linguistics and global education with her students at the École Internationale Differdange and Esch-sur-Alzette (EIDE). In addition to her responsibilities as an ETA, Ev looks forward to exploring the Grand Duchy’s countryside through hikes and road races.
Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.