Jakob Wastek is a former Sun Devil who took part in a Fulbright program in Germany after graduation. We checked in with him to learn more about his experience, and what we learned during his time abroad!
A lot of people may have heard of Fulbright but don’t know what it is. Can you tell us about the program in a nutshell?
In a nutshell, Fulbright is a prestigious, international program that allows graduating seniors to travel abroad as intellectual ambassadors for the US. Individuals receive a grant to study/complete research projects or take part in the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program.
I took part in the ETA program where you work closely with a school in your host country and help teach English to a variety of students. I taught at Kaiser Lothar Realschule Plus in Prüm, Germany. It is a small town, and I grew very close to my students and fellow faculty. Prüm and Kaiser Lothar hold a very special place in my heart.
How did you hear about Fulbright and what was the application process like?
I actually heard about Fulbright prior to my senior year through my Human Event Professor, Dr. Scott. I was given the chance to study for a month in Dundee, Scotland as a part of the Fulbright UK Summer Institute. I have to thank Dr. Scott deeply not just for acting as my guide through both Fulbright application processes, but also for acting as my mentor throughout my time at ASU.
The application process is extremely rigorous. You have to write a Statement of Grant Purpose and a Personal Statement. These require multiple drafts to make them succinct enough and thoroughly answer the questions the Fulbright Commission has put forth. You also need to answer other shorter questions about yourself within the application along with recommendation letters and foreign language proficiency forms. The questions and requirements are different for each grant depending on the country you choose to apply to.
Do you need to be a Barrett student to apply?
Absolutely not. Fulbright is open to anyone who meets their requirements, and the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) is also available to all students at ASU. I highly recommend meeting with the folks at ONSA to get answers to any questions you might have!
What type of applicants would be a good fit for this program?
Someone who is hardworking and eager to make a difference is a prime candidate. As a Fulbright recipient, you are an ambassador for the US and the Fulbright Commission in your host country.
How has the experience impacted your career trajectory/professional goals?
The experience has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It has greatly impacted my career trajectory. Out of college I had wanted to work in video production editing for corporations or news organizations. After returning from Germany, I have taken great interest in pedagogical pursuits and am currently looking to become a substitute teacher. I am considering pursuing a future career in education.
What pieces of advice would you give to students considering Fulbright or something like it?
I have two pieces of advice for a student considering a Fulbright. One is you should be prepared to work hard. The application process can be very rigorous and draining. But do not lose hope in how daunting the application process may seem; the end result is worth it, even if you do not receive a Fulbright Grant. My writing and ability to understand the application process has expanded exponentially and will provide me with a leg up for years to come.
My second piece of advice if you are even considering applying, do it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Also, it is important to know that, while this grant will cover a lot of your needs, you will have to pay some things out of pocket. For example, I had to bring enough cash to be able to pay for rent and food until I was able to get my visa and a bank account opened in Germany.
This leads into my second important item. You are required to take the initiative to find your housing, set up a bank account, obtain your visa.
Now I do not say these things to discourage students, but it is important to know before you apply. Also,I am coming from the German Fulbright experience; other countries may be different.
What is one experience that really sticks out to you from your time in Germany?
The experience that really stuck with me is actually when I was leaving Germany due to COVID-19. I received dozens of emails from some of my students saying goodbye and how much they loved having me. I had one student write me a letter in English, and that really made me smile. It made me so thankful that I had the chance to meet these people.
Where can interested students go to learn more?
Interested students should make an appointment with the Office of National Scholarship Advisement. The advisers there will give you a more in-depth look at the application process and help you decide if Fulbright is for you or if another program might be a better fit. Also, check out the Fulbright website at. You can answer most of your questions about the program there.