I can honestly tell you that I have never been more excited to go back to work. I have also never been less excited. I'm gonna be a Negative Nancy for a minute and tell you that honestly, I'm a little disappointed with the whole Fulbright experience. Note: this is on my experience at my school in my town. I have been completely happy and impressed with the people who work at Fulbright with whom I have had contact.
You might be thinking to yourself something along the lines of, but DUDE! You get to live in a foreign country. Are you smoking crack? I would LOVE to do that. No... I'm not smoking crack, but thanks for asking. I thought I would give you a little review of my experience thus far. I'm approximately halfway through the grant period, and this is what I have to say about it so far.
Pros (there are a few couple, so I figured I'd get them out of the way first):
1. SOME of the teachers I work with are pretty great. These teachers are actually the reason I haven't up and quit the program.
2. Germany. This country just has my heart. I don't know why, and probably couldn't explain it to you if I tried. All I'm sayin' is this: I wouldn't mind staying here forever. Plus... I love the language. And the food.
1. 800 EUR a month. For anyone living in the US, that's a whopping $1,017.84. That's it. For two people. Now, the ETAs get a smaller stipend than the full grantees. They also don't get extra for a spouse, so this is normally for one person. Even then, I have to say that this is my only real complaint that deals directly with the folks at Fulbright. I don't think they realize that this just is not enough. Wanna see our broken down budget?
Rent: 435 EUR
Internet: 45-50 EUR
Electric: 50 EUR
Cell Phones: 20 EUR
Tithing: 80 EUR
Transportation: 60 EUR
Total Expenses: 695 EUR
That leaves us with 105 EUR for food. Yeah, Fulbright... you've really outdone yourself with this big budget. Lucky for us, I've managed to get about 120 EUR extra a month from tutoring. Otherwise, we would be condemned to this god-forsaken small town where the greatest form of entertainment is sitting in front of the grocery store.
2. SOME of the other teachers are what qualify as buttheads. They ask me to come to their super early class on a day that I would otherwise have off. That would not be a problem if I actually got to do something. Instead, I just sit there. For an hour and a half. But wait, it gets better. When I do actually get the opportunity to answer a question, I am belittled and told that I don't know how to speak my own language. Yeah, once a week, every week, this happens.
3. This town. I really feel like the reason I'm having such a crappy experience is this town. Don't get me wrong - I love the people here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met. That does not, however, make up for the lack of things to do here. I got a three week break for Christmas. We spent the first week in Prague and traveling around Germany.
The second two weeks, however, I have managed to get dressed exactly three times, all three times were to go to the grocery store. Our computers and decks of cards have been our only sources of entertainment.
I guess that it's not really Fulbright I'm disappointed with so much as where I got stuck. I know that I'm here for a reason, but as each day goes by and no reason is found, I get a little more discouraged. I feel like I'm just sort of at a stand-still here, and can't progress. This is supposed to be a learning experience, and my expectations were so high. Those expectations haven't been met, and I'm here, on my couch in a rainy town in the middle of nowhere, wondering what could have been.
In other, better, more exciting news... I reached over 200 followers on the blog, so on Monday, I will be having a semi-large but totally awesome giveaway for all you amazing people.