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Getting into the FLTA program: Story of a Bangladeshi Fulbright scholar

| Updated: June 25, 2022 17:21:03

Getting into the FLTA program: Story of a Bangladeshi Fulbright scholar

The Fulbright Program is one of the most widely known cultural exchange programs in the world and is sponsored by the U.S Department of State. 

There are a lot of different cultural exchange initiatives within the program, notable among them is the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) which, according to the official website, is a program designed for young teachers of English as a Foreign Language. 

It allows refining their teaching skills and broadening their knowledge of American cultures and customs while strengthening the instruction of foreign languages at colleges and universities in the United States.

The opportunity is exclusive

Every year, a select few Bangladeshis get the opportunity. Md. Mamunur Rashid, a lecturer at BRAC Institute of Languages, BRAC University attended the program from 2017 to 2018 at New York University, New York.

While talking to the writer about the Fulbright FLTA and the qualifications required to get into the program, he said,

"The Fulbright FLTA is usually a nine-month non-degree program. The program is open to university teachers of English or other related fields, such as American Studies, Journalism and Media, and American/English Literature.” 

Assess your requirements

There are also a few other requirements. Some of the requirements for the application include a well-written statement of purpose, three recommendation letters, and a valid TOEFL and IELTS score. 

“The TOEFL requirement is 80, and the IELTS is 7. However, a score above that will give you an edge, since the program is competitive. The Fulbright FLTA program does not require GRE scores," added Mr Mamunur Rashid.

Fulbright is a part of broader cultural integration

Talking about the beginning of his journey to how the program helped him to have a broader cultural understanding, he told the writer,

"During my student days, I learned about the Fulbright program from my university teachers who had also been awarded this scholarship. It is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world.” 

“As a Fulbright FLTA,” Mr Rashid continues, “I had an excellent time at New York University, New York. And FLTA is a unique program as you have multiple responsibilities- a teacher, a student, and a cultural ambassador of your country. I felt proud teaching Bengali to American students and sharing Bangladeshi culture with them.” 

Extracurricular activities and courses

Besides, all FLTAs must take American Studies as a mandatory course, mentioned Mr Rashid. In this way, this program aims to build mutual respect and understanding among cultures. 

“I participated in several extracurricular activities and outreach projects that strengthened my skills, knowledge, and understanding of American culture and education."

The participants need to keep a few things in mind while applying. According to Md. Mamunur Rashid, "This program is not for students. The applicant should generally have at least two years of university teaching experience.” 

An applicant needs to focus on both academics and extracurricular activities when applying. FLTAs are expected to fulfil multiple roles at their host institutions; so it is essential to show that you are capable of doing so. 

Teaching Bangla

Mr Rashid further explained, “Can you teach the Bangla language to foreigners? You don't need any formal education or degree in Bangla language teaching. Since you are a native speaker of Bangla, you should be able to teach the language. But, you should still be proficient enough in Bangla to do so.” 

Without that, he believes, one cannot be a good cultural ambassador for his/her country.

“These are a few things you need to keep in mind when applying. And please apply on time. Keep an eye on the U.S. Embassy Dhaka's Facebook page and website to find out when the application window opens."

The participants of the program are required to return home after its completion and to disseminate the knowledge and experience learned in the program in their home countries. In the words of Md. Mamunur Rashid,

"The skills, knowledge, and experience I gained in the United States greatly benefited my country and home institution. My own cultural understanding also helps my students to gain a worldview.” 

He considers the world as his home now as through the Fulbright program, he was also able to connect with other FLTAs around the world. 

“This program has given me friends from more than 100 countries around the world. It has become an integral part of my identity. As the saying goes - once a Fulbright, always a Fulbright."

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