By Kristen Hill Contributing Writer
Travis Bent, a 2016 UMF graduate, spent nine months in Madrid, Spain as an English teaching assistant (ETA), which was fully funded through the Fulbright Scholar Program.
“One of the main objectives of a Fulbright Grantee is to be a “cultural Ambassador” Bent said. The Fulbright Program is an American scholarship program which encourages international education exchange. Graduates across the nation compete for this scholarship that gives them the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach abroad. The only basic requirement is a U.S. bachelor’s degree but Bent said, “One should keep in mind that you are competing with a nation of applicants, so it is highly competitive.”
Bent’s teachers pushed him to apply for this scholarship because they believed he had a great chance of getting it. The first decision he had to make was whether he wanted to do research or be a teaching assistant. He then had to choose which country he wanted to teach in. Bent graduated with a Bachelor’s in History as well as minors in Spanish, French and International and Global Studies.
“My main thought with this was, I am only going to apply to the place that I could dream of myself being in, a country that I loved and knew a lot about, which was Spain,” Bent said. He began taking Spanish is eighth grade and continued all the way through college.
Bent spent his time in Spain as an ETA at IES Ramiro de Maeztu, one of the biggest public schools in the country, where he taught three classes a day.
“The school I taught at was a bilingual school, so I was actually teaching subjects in English rather than Spanish,” Bent said. Bent taught classes on 20th century history and social media. He usually worked around 18 hours a week, and in addition, he taught private classes that he could charge significantly more for.
“The English level of the students was extremely high, which made my job easy,” Bent said. During his journey, Bent stayed with a Spaniard who showed him the way and helped him with his Spanish. Bent said, “We were in charge of finding our own living quarters from the start. The process of finding a piso [apartment] took me about two weeks, before then I was in a hostel.”
Before going to Spain, Bent had saved some money but “the money they gave us was more than enough to comfortably live and travel on,” he said.
The Fulbright Scholar application process includes a decision on conducting research, to study or to be an ETA and then where you want to be located. The application includes a general information form, three letters of recommendation, a one-page statement of grant purpose and a one-page personal statement.
“I probably spent about 100 hours on the statements and applications, blew through probably 15 drafts, as well as campus interviews where five professors interviewed me for about 30 minutes, about five minutes of which were in Spanish to test my ability,” Bent said about applying for the scholarship.
When Bent wasn’t working, he was exploring. “I enjoyed the different pace of life, the sights, the smells, and the lights. But I also used my long weekends to travel quite a bit,” Bent said.
In Spain, Bent traveled to Burgos, Barcelona, Salamanca, Toleda and El Escorial, as well as different parts of France, Portugal, England and Germany.