Kent State University - New Zealand
I am loving NZ, as well as my school and host family. Everything about it is perfect!
If you are at all interested, I have been keeping a blog and you can see pictures or hear about my experience there.
Kent State University - New Zealand
Students from the University of Alabama
Amanda Allen – Sneem, Ireland
Kristin Frieze – Dresden, Germany
Katie Westbrook – Nassau, Bahamas
Sidney Saindon – Geelong, Australia
Rebecca Cape – Geelong, Austraila
Shelby Bookout – Perth, Australia
Tessa Whitaker – Perth, Australia
Savannah Bernal – American Samoa
Nicoletta Pannunzio – American Samoa
Marie Sartain & Kate Gallagher
Auburn University- Alabama - Germany
University of Kentucky - Germany
Kent State University - Mexico
Ohio University - Costa Rica
I’m completing my student teaching in Costa Rica. What I am learning about being American, as I see myself from another vantage point, is our prevalence in the world. American music and movies are popular here. Even barber shops dawn pictures of Zach Effron and Hilary Duff to draw in customers. When I meet a Tico and tell her that I am from Ohio, she without doubt will know that it is located in the Midwest. I find this interesting because I know that many Americans would not know geographical information about Latin America, seemingly big things like the existence of El Salvador or the capital of Costa Rica. I think that the education system of America has failed us in this way. Most of Costa Ricans are bilingual, whereas foreign language education usually does not start until middle school or later in the U.S.
I am also learning about how much independence is valued in America as opposed to Latin American countries. This can be seen through the family dynamics and body language in Costa Rica. I absolutely love my housing situation. My host mother is named Liliana. I learn so much Spanish conversing with Liliana over the delicious food that she makes me. I learn from her about Costa Rican culture. Most interestingly, she has taught me about gender roles and family dynamics in the country. She lives next door to her sister, Mary Cruz, and also neighbors her mother and her daughter. It is typical for Costa Rican families to live in the same area their whole lives. Also, she has told me about machismo and her view that Costa Rica has retained traditional gender roles to this day.
From my travels, I have learned just how much Costa Ricans value their natural environment. There are many national parks and reserves in the country. The beaches are clean and serene as well. Even the Costa Rican ‘Colón’, or currency, highlights native animals like sloths and frogs and nature refuges like Monteverde cloud rainforest. The Costa Rican people are grateful for these natural wonders both for their beauty and for the boost in their economic situation because of their attraction to tourists.
The role of the primary teacher is different in that she is expected to be physically affectionate with the students. I now see how taboo it is to touch a student in America. It has been interesting to note that my cooperating teacher along with various assistants in the class will kiss the students on the head. My teacher also will ask for kisses on the cheek from her alumni and from the students. When I brought up this cultural difference to my teacher, she was struck by it. It is clear to me that she sees the affection as a key aspect in her job.
On the whole, I continue to learn about myself, the school, and Costa Rica every day of my placement and living in the country. I look forward to expanding my horizon even more over the remaining time I have here. I have even started to search for English teaching jobs abroad in order to learn more about other cultures and more about the Spanish language.
Ohio University - Ireland
The Irish experience has been nothing short of amazing and more than eye opening. On my arrival in to the country I was under the impression that because we shared the same language we would have much in common. That assumption has proved to be just as true as it is false. The differences that I have observed and lived through being a witness to this culture are quite profound.
My living arrangements shocked me from the first day. I am living in an apartment that a woman rents out of the back of her house. The setup seems to be like a bed and breakfast. When I arrived she explained to me that there was no key to the front door because the door is always open. That was the strangest and almost most terrifying thing I’d heard. Why would you ever leave a front door open? However, She explained to me that the community was extremely safe and there was no crime. As I’ve gotten to know my neighbors all of them keep their homes the same way, front doors unlocked! There is a strong sense of community in Kenmare. Here, you can “call down” to your neighbor’s house whenever you feel and it simply means walking over and opening the door. You don’t even ring the doorbell you just walk in.
The entire community has this attitude. Just today I went into a fish and chips restaurant and when I went to pay for my food the owner told me he didn’t accept cards. I offered to run to the ATM and instead he said “Just give it to me when you can.” This would never happen in America, if you don’t have the money you don’t get the product. I think a lot of this has to do with the entrepreneurship that is all over Ireland and especially the area I am located. There are no chain restaurants in all of Kenmare. The majority of businesses are owned and operated by people in the community. It’s been really interesting to see this and the quality of the goods and services that are offered in the shops, stores, and restaurants is very good because of this. The Irish curriculum is completely different than that in America. This has been my most challenging task; cultivating curriculum that meets the Irish standards but also those of my program and those needed for the edTPA. In Ireland the student’s final grade is based on one examination that isn’t graded by the teacher. It is sent to their national testing center and assessed there. Therefore every homework assignment, every in class assignment, every assignment given by a teacher does not go into their grade. I have learned a lot about assessing students thus far through Kenmare Community School. I have also solidified my own personal belief that students need more than just one formative assessment.
The cross-cultural experience in the education field has shown some major difference but it is a wonderful experience. I’m growing professionally and able to take away much of what Ireland is teaching me to the American classroom.
Paige Kerrigan & Michelle Goble
Ohio University - Germany
Read about Kaleroy's experience teaching in India!
I hope you remember me, but my name is Sarah xxxxxxx and I am a former COST student! I conducted my student teaching in Grahamstown, South Africa during the Spring 2011 school term. My coordinating professor while in South Africa was Jean xxxxxx from Rhodes University.
I just wanted to send you an update on all of the wonderful things I've been doing since graduating from UGA in Spring 2011. For the past two years I've been teaching the 3rd grade at Pleasantdale Elementary School in Dekalb County. I had such a great experience working here and I credit my time at UGA and the COST program for helping me have a great first two years of teaching.
For the past four months I have been preparing to make a BIG move from Georgia and return to South Africa! I fell in love with Grahamstown so much that I applied to school at Rhodes University there where I will be working towards a Bachelors in Education Honors Degree. This two year degree program is catered to teachers who have at least two years of full time teaching experience and have a desire to sharpen their skills. I will be starting school this January 2014.
Not only will I be studying in South Africa, but I will also be volunteering full time at the Lebone Center in Grahamstown where I will be working with their pre-k program, after school program, and literacy enrichment program. All three programs are geared for the students from the township schools and are either infected or affected with HIV. During my first trip to South Africa I volunteered with this center while doing my student teaching, so I am so excited to be invited back!
I just want to thank you so much for all that you did for me while at UGA and in the COST program. I credit COST for presenting the opportunity to teach abroad. I truly feel like a world class teacher! I hope to hear from you soon!
If you are considering the COST program, I strongly encourage you to do it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will open your eyes to new cultures and different ways of life. This experience has been invaluable to me. Teaching overseas will prepare you to teach in the U.S. in ways that you would never imagine. I have loved my time in Ecuador, and I will be sad to leave.
Hi Ken! I am here in China teaching elementary school now. I have just completed my first week and have already done so much with the children! I am sending you a picture of one of my students and I visiting a poor farming village in China to deliver books and school supplies that they needed. The village has 1 school room for all grade levels with desks and a chalk board. All the children of the village go there each day to be taught by an older gentleman from the village who teaches for free. He wants the children in his village to have the opportunity to attend the universities here in China. It was wonderful and humbling to see.
Some thoughts on traveling abroad. Things are not as easy as they are in the United States and I think we take that for granted. I have internet in China, but most sites are blocked and the connections are spotty. Sometimes they work wonderful, other times they are snail speed. They do not use technology the way that we do in our classrooms. They do not depend on it since it is unreliable. The one thing that I lean on each day that I am here and feel like an outsider is that the children that I teach are just like the children in the United States. Happy, fun loving and energetic! They can make me smile and that is why I teach to begin with. Thank goodness for the children! I have my hands full leading the English teaching team here to create Halloween for the school. I have each grade level learning about our Halloween customs along with their English curriculum! A very busy week! I hope you enjoy the pictures. Can't wait to be home again!
ok no picture attached...internet would not let me upload..lol sorry
The University of Alabama - Greece
I believe that my experiences in Thessaloniki, Greece have been molding me into a more well-rounded and cultured teacher that will have the ability to reach out to each and every student that I teach in the future. Learning is not only about content in the classroom, but also about personal connections between teachers and students. My hope is for my future students to be able to live and learn vicariously through my experiences throughout the world. Pinewood is an international school and is very culturally diverse. I have encountered all kinds of backgrounds and multi-leveled students. In my placement classroom, there is a wide range of students who are all English language learners. Through the COST program, I believe I am gaining diverse cultural experiences that I will be able to incorporate into my future classroom.
University of Kentucky - Costa Rica
Although getting adjusted to a new culture was challenging at first, teaching abroad has proved to be one of the most valuable experiences in my life. Not only have I learned about the Costa Rican culture, I have grown as a person and teacher. I can think on my feet and I have gained a lot of confidence. The students and teachers in Costa Rica have given me a confidence in teaching that I do not think I would have had I not participated in the COST Program. It is much easier to get up in front of the classroom here rather than America because the students are interested in me because I am different. It was easy to build rapport with students because they enjoyed asking me questions about school in the United States. Once I built this rapport it was easier to gain respect and control in the classroom. I am thoroughly pleased with my experience thus far and am excited for what has yet to come.
Ohio University - New Zealand
Eastern Illinois University - Australia
This summer we had the privilege of interviewing EIU grad and former study abroader McLain Schaefer. Some of you may recognize the name, as McLain is an active teacher in the Mattoon school system, and a native of Charleston. He notified our office that his Australian host family, whom he stayed with in 2009 while completing his student teaching abroad, would be making a trip through the U.S. The trio spent a morning with us, and we had a great time hearing the stories and memories shared with Kay, her husband Roger, and their "son" McLain. An eloquent reminder of the power of study abroad, on video thanks to the CATS staff! Our thanks to Dean Jackman & Dr. Kestner for their continued support of the COST program at EIU. I'll be sharing the content with the Alumni Office in hopes that some additional coverage will be possible.
University of Kentucky - Germany
University of Alabama - New Zealand
Teaching abroad is a lifetime experience. It will open your eyes to new kinds of beauty that one could not imagine. It engulfs you in new cultures and broadens your outlook on life. I can truly say that my experience teaching abroad has helped turned me into a mature adult and develop life skills that I could have not been taught. I have grown a disease that makes me want to travel, explore, and learn about new cultures, people, and life. Most importantly, it has taught me that children are children no matter where they are from and that they need a teacher who acts as a passionate, stern, and caring leader.
You know that age old saying, "time flies"? Well I believe it to be true! Doing my student teaching has been one of the best things I have ever done. From the moment I arrived in country, to the next three months that followed, to the time I left to come home; I never regretted the choice I made to do COST. Sure I had my bumps along the way, but nothing can out weigh the experiences I had and memories that I have made. I was placed in an inquiry based, child-centered, International Baccalaureate primary school right in the heart of Helsinki. My school used a mixture of the Finnish National Curriculum and the IB curriculum. A unique feature of my classroom was that I got the chance to co-teach along side of my mentor. Together we planned a 6-week unit on the places and spaces around us, focusing on both a local and global perspective. I loved being able to take my students on weekly field trips to places in the community or to just be able to walk around with them and they share with me what they have learned. people in Finland are very welcoming and interested in why you are visiting their country. Many have asked me the question: why did you choose Finland and not somewhere warmer (I went in the heart of their winter!)? Each time I simply answered: "the schools are said to be the best". They would then follow up with: well do you think so? I would answer them with an ecstatic "YES!!!" I really do believe that the Finnish schools have something going on the we here in the United States don't have going on, and we could really learn something from them, I know that I have! There are 4 big things that I take away from the school that I was in that I'd love to see happen in our country: relaxation, short school days, free school, and co-teaching. The classroom atmosphere was one of the most relaxed I have ever seen; students are allowed to wear socks or slippers to school, students got 3 recess periods of 15-30 minutes each other than weekly spelling tests we never have a test to the students, and the children were allowed to have a small item from home on their desks whenever they needed it. I feel that students really benefited from this type of atmosphere and they do their best learning when they are relaxed. Students were all accessed informally through the use of inquiry-based projects. The longest school day my students would have was from 8am to 1pm, that's 5 hours at school and about 4 hours of instructional time, the children don't feel pressured to have to perform when they have been at school for 7 or 8 hours. School for the students is free, the supplies they use are free, and even transportation to and from school is free. At most times in my classroom there were always two teachers, an aide or special needs teacher and the regular classroom teacher. This allows the children to get the individual attention that they need. Student teaching in Finland was one of the best things I think I could have done in college. Not only did I enrich my traveling experience and teaching experience, but also my experience of working with students from other cultures. The students in my first grade classroom came from 12 different cultures and each brought their own pride and value into the everyday classroom. I highly recommend the chance to student teach overseas and wouldn't change my decisions for anything. Let's just say that I have caught the highly contagious international teaching bug! :)
Being placed in a Year 2 classroom in Perth Australia has allowed me to gain insight on the Australian way of life, different teaching styles and most importantly on myself. Student teaching abroad provides you with the tools to be more understanding and accepting of others thoughts, ideas and actions. I have grown socially, emotionally and professionally. I am witnessing a school being run differently from in the states and there are many pros and cons to both. If you love to travel, meet new people and are open minded you should absolutely consider doing your student teaching abroad; it is an experience that has positively changed my outlook on teaching and life in general.
In the past couple months I have made some new friends with colleagues at the school and adapt to a culture different from my own. I have become more outgoing than I was at home and learned to take advantage of every opportunity to try something new. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Stepping out of your comfort zone gives you the chance to be more independent and learn more about yourself and the people around you.
Kent State University - Mexico
This has been single-handedly the most frustrating, work-intensive, extensive, cultural, and overall best learning experience of my life! I cannot put into words the experiences and vast opportunities a program such as COST opens up for you. COST gives you something you will never get staying at home; a real opportunity to learn another culture as well as practice your teaching in a completely new learning environment.
I would have never have met teachers and students from places such as Australia, France, Germany, China, Scotland, Britain, Brazil, and Spain without taking the leap. I would have never possible made teacher friends who have worked internationally in places such as Japan, Spain, Canada, and Saudi Arabia, and many more who will continue receiving opportunities to go places such as Taiwan, Germany, South Africa, and China. A placement through COST means opportunity. Not simply opportunity for you, but also opportunity for your own future students. Whether I choose to take an opportunity to work in places such as Taiwan (Job openings have already been forwarded my way) or not, I will inevitably take back a better worldly knowledge back to my classroom so that I can ensure my own students are not simply knowledgeable of their own home, but of much of the world. Find your inner explorer and get out there!
For those of you who do not need me to convince you that this is one of the best opportunities for you as a student and teacher, I recommend you to do three simple things before you leave and while you are away. First, do as much research as possible about your area, and take care of every little thing back home (bank accounts, taxes, doctors' appointments, insurance, etc.) Do this so you do not spend most of your time away freaking out about possible problems at home… cause when you are a thousand miles away, frantically skyping your sibling to then get your parents to get the bank to unfreeze your account can be a worst nightmare (Too specific to have just come up with? Yes… it is.) Secondly, try to speak the host-country's language as much as possible. Not only is this seen as an attempt by you to get into the culture and an offer of good faith, but it is also a great way to learn a language. No better way than from the people who speak it! Thirdly, and lastly, learn to take every chance or opening to get involved while away. It can be very lonely sitting at your home at the computer doing homework or messaging friends and family constantly. Nobody learns culture in isolation. Remember this… you are always too busy to do something, but if you never make the time, you will always be too busy to do anything.
I sincerely hope those reading this will choose to student teach through COST. It is not easy, and I will not attempt to portray it as otherwise. But teaching is not easy. The life of those who develop curriculum, and research, and teach, and coach, and counsel, and care for the well-being of each and every child we meet is not easy. But it is one of the most rewarding jobs anyone could have. Experiences through COST are changing my life for the better, and will no doubt do the same for you.
University of Alabama - Germany
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." -Saint Augustine
Kent State University - Australia
I have now been at Belmont City College in Perth, Australia for 6 weeks. The time has definitely flown by, as cliche as that sounds. Australia is a beautiful country full of people with great attitudes and out looks on life. I feel like I am learning here every day, and I will be a much more adaptable teacher at the end of this COST experience. I did not realize how different Australian school systems and curriculum were from American school systems until I arrived. There are still things that come up that confuse me. I am teaching in geography classes, and they cover much more practical and environmental geography than human and cultural that I am used to in the United States, so I have been brushing up on those skills! I also am teaching Australian geography, which is something I knew next to nothing about! They call social studies "Society and the Environment" and they do not separate the subjects each year; for example in years 8-10, they will split the term taking geography, history, economics, and culture in one year. The grading system is quite different, students wear uniforms, the discipline procedures were new to me, the daily schedule, and the year schedule were all things I have adapted to understanding. The diversity at my school is one of my favorite parts; two of my classes are completely English as a Second Language classes, and I love working with them and understanding more about my language and culture and how I teach through their struggles and questions. They all bring such a unique perspective to the classroom. It is really great to be able to learn and understand a completely new education system, as it brings perspective on the American system. The students have all been very polite and impressive, and they also enjoy my accent. I am learning so much extra on top of the normal student teaching experience with discipline, lesson planning, timing, material creation, unit planning, etc. I also love that I get to travel around and explore Australia on the weekends! I have been very lucky to be placed with a good host family and be around other COST students who want to explore as well. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience so far, and I am excited for what the next half entails.
University of Alabama - New Zealand
University of Kentucky - Germany
I am working with 5th grade students at the Koenigin-Luise Schule in Cologne, Germany. I am having a great experience. It is great to experience different aspects of teaching. I think experience has given a more diverse way of teaching the subject of music. There is so much music in and around Germany. It almost overwhelming to think of talking about the famous classical music composer Beethoven in class in Cologne because he was born and lived only 30 minutes away from the school in Bonn, Germany. I think opportunity has given me a greater appreciation for music, for educators around the world, and, due to the vast amounts of trips, this experience has helped me become a better global citizen. I can't wait to continue time here. Thank you for the opportunity!
University of Kentucky - Germany
Kent State University - Italy
Today was my first day in my second grade classroom. I loved it. My teacher is from South Africa but speaks four languages. She is very supportive and wonderful with the students. At times she is a little strict, but in a good way. I have fifteen students: five girls and ten boys. Strictness is very much needed. Those boys are crazy. I have students from Italy, two from America (but one of whom is Bangladesh), one from somewhere in Africa (he kept telling me Switzerland but that's obviously not right), one from Japan, and some students who are Brazilian, German, Irish, and more. I'm in love with them. They call the girl from America "the girl with the bright face." It's hilarious. The students are so friendly and while the boys are not always well behaved, they are all extremely eager to learn. We started the day with homeroom which is just attendance and gathering homework. After that, we had Language. This is when the students learn English. We did spelling and phonics activities and I worked with some students one-on-one. I loved it. After an hour of Language and snack, the students had recess. From recess, we went to Computers Class where we finished working on their PowerPoint presentations from last week and started a reflection paper in a word document. It was so funny, because they were reflecting on an air and sound unit and one of the things they had to answer was "how do we know air exists?" One of my students wrote "I know air exists because without it, I couldn't be brave." (He really meant to say breathe, but was mixing up the v and th sounds). It was cute. After computers we had lunch, and I had the best school lunch I've ever eaten. The cafeteria is filled with salad bars and pasta and chicken and risotto and couscous and vegetables and so much more. Yum. After lunch was UoI, which is Unit of Inquiry. This is where we teach the main lesson of the day. Today, we started our six week unit on family histories. The students were in groups of three and together made a graffiti paper of their family histories and everything they knew. Anything that they did not know, the students were encouraged to think about so they could later interview their parents. The will then prepare for a class presentation on their families. In addition to this, we started getting the students ready for their self-lead parent conferences. The students have been picking out various projects or assignments that they have completed throughout the year (maybe one they especially loved or found interesting, maybe one they want to work more on, etc.) and have been putting them into a portfolio. The students then have to write why they picked each item and what it means to them. In a few weeks, the students will be leading their own parent conferences. We will be allowed in the rooms but not allowed to talk. The students have to do it all. After unit of inquiry, the students went home. It was such a good day. The students really welcomed me and seem to feel comfortable with me already. They are teaching me so much. I'm excited to see what tomorrow brings!!!!
Grand Vallet State University - Australia
Perth is a city of many opportunities. There is a local train that can take you almost any place that you would like to visit, and buses as well. This city is big to a small town girl, but small to those whom live here. The ocean is quite close, and offers miles and miles of beaches to roam. A local city, called Fremantle, offers many wonderful adventures and excursions. This sea port city holds a lot of history for this area, and wonderful markets, places to eat, and such an easy access to culture experiences. The weather here is quite dry, sunny, and predictable. A storm is a rare occurrence, and rain even rarer. The animals are wonderful! Caversham Wildlife Park offers an up close and personal opportunity to interact with local wildlife: koalas, kangaroos, snakes, etc., and is a recommendation to all!
The schools here, quite unlike schools in the states, all require that the students wear a uniform. I quite liked this aspect because it gave the students a "working as a team" type aspect to them. The teachers and staff I found to be quite relaxed and seemed to work as a team as well. Every morning the students would get an early recess, and the rest of the teachers would get together for tea and a chat. This daily routine seemed like such a wonderful treat, as well as a positive influence on the staff all around.
The people that I have met from Australia have a certain humor about them, but very like able personalities indeed. Everyone is quite relaxed, and "Cannot be bothered" by the daily stresses of life. People are open to Americans, and quite curious as well. However, I cannot help but feel bad that a lot of them view us as a very self-centered nation. I would recommend this trip to anyone looking for an adventure, but not a massive culture shock. The foods, people, and mentalities of the people here are quite similar to those of people at home. This is a very comfortable setting with very kind people. The land is rich with life despite the dryness. And the adventures are countless. This place has so much to offer to anyone who is up for the adventure!
Grand Valley State University - Costa Rica
I first applied to COST program with the intention of going to the place I have always wanted to go, Australia. My other top choices included New Zealand, South Africa, and the Netherlands. However, I got the e-mail from my coordinator stating I had to choose-Costa Rica or Mexico. At first I was disappointed. Then I realized this was still an amazing opportunity. I have been across the bridge to Canada, which was not enough. I was determined to go further and see the world despite my inability to speak spanish. I wanted to have first hand experience in immersing myself in a culture other than my own.
Costa Rica became my home for five weeks. I lived with a host family there that spoke only spanish, which left me guilty but our relationship was not hindered. Here, I was truly immersed into a new culture. I lived in a house of Ticos that knew everyone in a city that was not commercialized into a tourist town. Ticos and Ticas are the men and woman from Costa Rica.
Surprisingly, there were not that many of them in my school that I student taught at. The school I worked at was one of privilege certified by the states and Europe. Sons and daughters of the wealthy bringing out their MacBooks and iPhones were not what I expected and I was nothing new to them. The bilingual school was home to many teachers from the states or other various countries. Here, I was welcome into all the end of the year festivities and feelings. I often lost my students for the day due to an unexpected assembly or field trip and have learned what every teacher eventually does, things do not go according to plan. I have learned to have a plan B and to "go with the flow."
The country itself had its own personality. I am constantly saying how green it is! There are the greenest mountains throughout the country filled with National Parks. Within the National Parks are some of the most biologically diverse places on the planet and most beautiful beaches. As a biologist, the flora and fauna fascinated me the most. I was able to see some of the most venomous snakes in Latin America, capuchins, howler monkeys, coatis, toucans, macaws, and morpho butterflies. I went white water rafting after the rainy season, played in waterfalls, hiked and rode horses in the rainforest, viewed active volcanoes, climbed inside a 75-foot tall ficus tree and held a red eyed tree frog.
From these adventures, I have grown as a person. I was once reliant on other people for my decision making and planning for things great and small. In Costa Rica, I grew in confidence in myself that I am able. I also grew in independence by planning in a foreign country with a different language. I was no longer able to be reliant on my car, but rather myself and a bus system to get anywhere. I highly recommend the experience to anyone, even if it is not your number one or two or three or even your fourth choice. It is truly an experience of a lifetime and you truly learn not only about another culture or another education system, but yourself. Go in with no expectations and explore.
Grand Valley State University - South Africa
When I requested to student teach through the COST program in Grahamstown, South Africa, I did not realize I would be teaching during the busiest time of the year. Instead, the biggest thing on my mind was how I, a Secondary Social Studies major, was going to handle being placed in a primary school. My thoughts swirled around learning about Apartheid (South Africa's version of segregation) in 7th grade and knowing that I'd always wanted to travel here to see what it is like now. Grahamstown, South Africa is known for its schools, its churches, and its Art Festival. It is a small town in the middle of sloping farms and game reserves. Even though the scenery is stunning, Grahamstown has an unemployment rating that hovers around 40%. Like most cities in South Africa, there is Grahamstown and then there is the Township of Grahamstown. There, you see houses made out of scraps of metal and anything they can find. There are schools there, but they are completely underfunded and many of the kids do not make it all the way through school. Grahamstown also has some very good schools, some private and some public, where students attend and continue through to higher education. Victoria Primary is a public school that sees students from working class families and also students whose parents are in the education field.
As I walked into school on my first day, I was quickly introduced to the principal a Grade 6 teacher who volunteered to have me work with her and the other Grade 6 teacher. Before being shuttled upstairs, my principal smiled and told me, "This is the busiest time in the year for South African schools. You're just going to have to go with the flow. You will learn a lot about what it means to be a teacher, even if you don't get a large amount of teaching practice in." She knew what she was talking about! My time at Victoria Primary during the end of their academic year has been filled with concerts, farewells, assemblies, field trips, and of course, a few lessons. It has been busy and chaotic most days, but I certainly have learned a lot about being a teacher.
During my time at VP, extracurricular activities have been brought into school time. Often, there were several practices a week to make sure those concerts and assemblies went smoothly and impressed all the audience members who were present. In learning what it means to be a teacher, I was able to adjust lessons on a moment's notice, knowing that I had less time to teach than I had originally planned. Also, I was able to work on how I plan lessons by allowing myself to have a back-up plan in case something changed that morning. I planned more precisely what I was going to say in lessons, but also how I was going to say it. I learned that although I have great rapport with students, I need to be cautious of how casually I speak with them so that there is still a teacher-student distinction.
Although I learned a lot about the role of a teacher that is not always discussed in classes, I also learned a lot about myself in the time I've been in Grahamstown. I learned that, although I have always been independent, that I can push that even further if I have to. Being the only COST student in Grahamstown, I have had to work extremely hard to make friends, find ways around town, and how to do things on my own. I once was terrified to go to a movie alone or sit at a restaurant by myself, but because of this experience, I have adjusted to these things and feel more confident in myself because of it. That is not to say I have done everything alone here. My coordinating teacher and her husband have been my lifesavers in these six weeks. They took me to lunch, drove me to school, and invited me to braais, anything to make sure I felt welcome and at home in Grahamstown. They even made sure that I was able to go on a class trip with the Grade 7s to Cape Town! I cannot imagine what my time here would have been like without them, as they have been my guides during this amazing experience. The staff at VP is what made this adventure great and helped me reach my full potential as a teacher and grow as a person. After being here, I feel more confident, independent, and am incredibly excited to be entering the field of education as a future teacher!
Grand Valley State University - India
India is a country that not many people think about traveling to when they have an opportunity like the COST program gives you. It is big, over crowded, and has a lot of poverty. Their education system has not been one we have learned about as good, nor bad. This country is just here, and there is so much opportunity that comes along with it...people just choose not to see it. While I have been here in India, I have learned many things that have changed by view on life, forever. The education system is very well. This, as most countries, views education as very important and all children go to school. There are many public schools, and some private. During my time here, I attended a private school that had served students up to 50 miles in radius with a bus offered to pick them up. My students did all kinds of things while in school. They had not only their core classes, but also many kinds of "specials" that they could choose to attend at different parts of the day. The teachers care deeply for their students and their students and parents show very high respect towards the teachers here. They are very well educated men and woman that deserve this respect. Students here seem more eager to learn and become the best student they can be in comparison to the USA. The city is large, when you first arrive you will feel lost and overwhelmed. There are people everywhere, touching you and mesmerized by you because you are an American. People will want you to touch their children or elder to bring them luck and your wealth. The amount of poverty that you will see is unreal. There are people begging for money and food all over the streets. I had a women try to offer me her baby because she was poor and could not afford to take care of it. There are dogs and cats everywhere that are skin and bones searching for food also. There will be people staring at you wherever you go, no matter what you are doing, there will be eyes on you....The schools there are great, especially the private ones. They have great resources and the kids are very well educated. If you are up for a life changing adventure that will force you out of your comfort zone and will be scary and intimidating at times...come to India, it will be worth it! They need good teachers like you and will try to get you to stay and live to teach full time before you leave.
Ohio University - Perth, Australia
The COST program was truly a once in a lifetime experience in so many ways. I traveled from Ohio to Perth, Western Australia, which is just about as far away from home as I could get! It was fascinating to be fully immersed in a new culture, and incredibly rewarding to get to teach in this 'new world.' I gained a stronger sense of self, independence, and confidence in my abilities by taking risks and trying things I may not have done in the comfort of my typical environment back home. My incredible host family, cooperating teachers, and students helped ease the transitions into this experience, and supported me so that I was able to fully embrace the challenges and grow in multiple capacities. At the end of my time in Australia, I was proud to feel that I had gained a 'home away from home', and my passion for becoming a teacher had strengthened more than I thought possible. I feel more prepared knowing that I have taken on many unknown situations and embrace a 'go with the flow' mentality to make the most of each moment! I am so grateful to have these memories, and to know this is only the beginning.
Northern Kentucky University - Australia
Although it has only been a few weeks I have already learned a great deal from teaching in Australia! I was very nervous about fitting in with the school because of how very different it was than any school I had been placed at in the U.S. The way the teachers teach and the flow of the day is extremely different than schools at home. They have absolutely no textbooks which is something I had to get used to. I have learned a great deal about teaching without textbooks and how to make every lesson hands on for the students! My grade does a lot of reflecting with the students after every lessons to ensure the students have grasped the content of the lesson and gotten what the teachers intended them to get out of it. I have enjoyed every minute thus far in my experience. I cannot believe how much I have already grown as a teacher in such a short amount of time! I am excited to see what else this experience will bring for me!!
Northern Kentucky University - The Netherlands
While being here in the Netherlands I have learned a lot about myself. Before coming on this trip I was feeling very anxious about the adventure of a life time going sour, however since being here I have found that all of my worst fears were only fears. I have allowed myself to be more outgoing than normal and it has turned out great so far. I have began the true experience of a life time here in the Netherlands and intend on continuing to do so for the remainder of my trip. I was fearful when arriving that the educational system would be so different that I would not be able to fit in, or adapt to their expectations, but have found nothing but open arms waiting to help me get started on a wonderful and educational journey.
University of Alabama - Germany
Teaching outside of the United States has taught me countless things but the most significant has been learning about a different way of life, which has helped me to better understand people, in general. Each choice that pushes my comfort zone, is a choice to learn the language, to encounter a new attitude towards something, and to battle with why things are the way they are in different places. This process has confirmed my beliefs in many ways, and encouraged me to incorporate other aspects into my own life and teaching. The time I am spending in Germany has given me far greater knowledge about the world and it's people then I could have ever received at home. I look forward to bringing this experience back with me and sharing it for years to come with my students.
Northern Kentucky University - Costa Rica
So far, teaching outside of the U.S. has been as much of a learning experience just living somewhere else as it has been teaching. the school I am in is a private K-12 school in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I am used to teaching in a public school setting, so this has been a major change for me. The school is called the "Creative School" in English, so many of the methods used are very hands on and involve drawing. We are also in the middle of a cloud forest in the rainforest, so we go outside and work with the environment. I have to say, it has been an adjustment because I feel that the schools I am used to are much more academically focused versus this school. I am adjusting and learning lots of new creative things to use in the classroom from my Cooperating Teacher. I am going to share some American candy for Halloween tomorrow! I hope everyone is having a valuable learning and teaching experience so far.
Northern Kentucky University - Greece
"If I told you this experience has been exactly what I imagined, If I told you this experience has been completely peaceful or a constant thrill, If I told you this experience has been without struggle, I would be deceiving you. I believe the way we learn and evolve is through our human experience, We grow by finding our own way, by discovering and problem solving our own reality. We grow by striving for more, by pushing ourselves to reach beyond our comfort zones. We grow by listening to those around us, by thinking critically, feeling compassionately, and deciding for ourselves what to ignore and what action to take. My advice, take the challenge: You will be better for it, so will your students, and so will our world."
Kindergarten class at Pinewood American International School of Thessaloniki, Greece
Kent State University - South Africa
I spent 9 weeks in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with 8 other students from various colleges and universities in the US. Four of us lived in a one bedroom apartment in the city, about a one minute walk to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. While I was in PE, I taught at Herbert Hurd Primary School, grades 1 and 3, and volunteered through a local non profit organization, Freewalker, at a local township school, Kwa-ford Primary-- painting, gardening and organizing classrooms. While teaching and collaborating at Herbert Hurd and volunteering at Kwa-Ford, I learned so much about South Africa's cultures and educational system. I came back with a renewed appreciation for the resources that teachers and students have in the US! I thought I was independent before I traveled the 8,500 miles to PE, South Africa... but quickly learned what it meant to face challenges and struggles and succeed on my own-- starting with my 23 hour trip! I am a more confident person because of my experiences traveling to and living and teaching in SA. I learned how to live with perfect strangers (whom I now call friends) and collaborate with professionals whose pedagogical practices differ quite a bit from my own. Through the COST program, I was able to figure out how to apply my teaching skills in the classroom on the other side of the world. There is no other experience that will ever compare!
Kent State University - Mexico
My name is Cristina. My student teaching placement was in a third grade classroom at a school in Guadalajara, Mexico. The teacher, the children, the staff, and the school far exceeded any expectations I had. The children, families, and staff were all so great to collaborate with. Establishing relationships with everyone I met at the school was the least bit difficult. I was also able to learn so much from my mentor teacher, who had gained years of experience teaching in schools all over the world. Aside from the teaching aspect of the experience, what I loved most were the opportunities I had to experience the culture. This occurred through living with a wonderful host family, making new friends, and traveling the country. Student teaching through the COST program opened a lot of doors for me. It really allowed me to consider teaching opportunities I had not previously known existed. My student teaching experience was an amazing opportunity that I will always remember.
Kent State University - The Netherlands
Hello Dr. Cushner,
I'm all settled here! I have a cozy little apartment that's about a 5 minute bike ride from the center of Rotterdam... it's really an amazing location! The school is about 40 minutes by subway/tram, which isn't all that bad. On Wednesdays I go to another school's campus (they do bilingual education there, so that's where I'll be getting my social studies in) and that's over an hour away, but still do-able since it's only once a week.
I've been learning a LOT about myself. Especially by connecting to my Dutch roots. I've been speaking the language a lot and I'm really proud of myself for doing that. The smallest things, like successfully asking for or giving directions in Dutch feels like a major accomplishment!
I think that one of the biggest benefits of this program is seeing how schools in other countries run. My school is so different from middle and high schools in the States. Kids are given so much more freedom but also (what I feel is) a lot more responsibility with regards to school work, etc. Teaching here is different too. It's more common to be a part-time teacher than a full-time teacher, and teachers only come in when they have class and have a lot of control over their schedules. So teachers with kids often come in late and go home early to take care of their children, which I think is awesome.
My school is very ethnically diverse, which I think is really interesting. Not a whole lot of blonde haired blue-eyed Dutch students which is what I was expecting! Rotterdam has a lot of Turkish, Surinamese, Moroccan, and Antilleans... so most of my students have one of those for their background. But I also have some students that are Pakistani, Indian, etc. It's funny because the school is technically a Christian-affiliated school, but the majority of my students are Muslim! This can be rough because a lot of students don't speak Dutch at home, which makes teaching them English even trickier than usual because then they have to translate everything twice.
I like it though-- love the diversity, and the challenge!
Social Studies Eastern Illinois University - Cologne
Hello! My name is Ryan and I am from a Crystal Lake, Illinois. I am finishing my studies at Eastern Illinois University with a Bachelor's in Secondary Education Social Studies. The staff at KLS and the city of Cologne has made my experience one of great personal and professional growth.
The KLS school has a great community, filled with friendly staff and students. In teaching and being under the guidance of the KLS teachers, I was able to experience and see many teaching strategies. The differences between American and German culture helped me analyze and constantly evaluate my methods and practices resulting in having greater and better rounded skills as an educator. The students also are a blast. They are respectful and interested in American culture. Oftentimes I would find myself between breaks or after classes sharing stories about life in America. This was not only fun for me to share, but enlightening for the students, in learning about a culture different than their own. Student teaching at KLS has been a joy; I did also manage to make time for personal enjoyment.
When I originally signed up for the COST program, I questioned whether I wanted to be away from my family and friends. I now have no question whether it was the right or wrong choice. Submersing yourself in another culture, and then to challenge yourself helps you work and re-evaluate your teaching skills. I feel that coming to Germany and teaching at KLS was undoubtedly the best decision I could have made for not only my future as an educator but for my development and growth as one too.
Middle Childhood Education Erin recently participated in the COST program and taught math and language arts/English in Greece.
When I first knew I was going to be spending my final undergraduate semester overseas to complete my student teaching in Greece, I knew the learning that would happen would be around the clock, in and outside of the classroom. However, I did not know just how much learning and growing I would do. By going overseas, I learned to be more aware of different cultures, as I was immersed in Greek culture, but also because my students were from countries all over the world—Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, the United States, Germany, South Africa, and more. I was aware of how I was portraying myself and the United States at all times. Rather than an annoyance or misunderstanding, cultural differences became more of a curiosity to me—why is this person doing this differently than I am? Why do I feel the need to do this when everyone around me does that? My self-awareness increased. Because I was away from the comforts of home, who I really am (and want to be) had to become stronger because I was on my own. Not only did I become stronger and more culturally aware, but I also made friendships across the globe. It is an almost indescribable feeling to say that if I went back to Thessaloniki, Greece, I could call up multiple people and have somewhere to stay and people to see. I have gained experience in an international school before I have even graduated with a Bachelor's degree. No amount of reading in textbooks about other cultures can shape a person like actually taking a trip can, and completing my student teaching overseas confirms that. The trip was worth every penny spent, and has changed me in ways I am sure I am not even fully aware of yet or might not ever be aware of.
Cassandra I love Mexico! I have even been offered a job. This has turned out to be an amazing experience and I am loving every second of it. Thomas Jefferson has felt like home since the day I arrived. My first month I taught first grade and grew incredibly attached. One of the little girls made me a card saying, "Miss Cassandra you live far very far. Please not live far." It is fair to say they touched my heart. I am currently in the school's adult choir and finishing up my time with fifth grade. Today is my last day with them before I move on to Kinder for one month. A few of my students have made up a game-plan for me. They think I should go home, graduate and then come back to Thomas Jefferson and teach sixth grade so that they can have me all next year.
This is a life-changing experience and I am blessed to have this opportunity. I wouldn't be able to name just one significant experience, because it is the various small experiences which make it meaningful. The way the children love me and want me to stay, the kindness and generosity shown by my coworkers and supervisors and the inexplicable feeling I get while teaching. All teachers make a difference in their students' lives, but teaching ESL you make an even greater impact. When I left the United States I wasn't sure that teaching was what I wanted to do anymore; but when I arrived here, I knew it's where I was meant to be and what I was meant to do. This experience has led me to finding the purpose in my life, and for that I will be forever thankful.
After only two short months of additional student teaching in Cologne, Germany, I can advise other student teachers to open their minds to teaching abroad, if for no other reason, to open doors for a future career. Finding a job in the States is tough at the moment, and pursuing careers abroad without the support of a university can be daunting. Students can use COST as a trial run for a future international career, or find the things that work in other countries’ education systems to bring back to his/her own classroom in the States.
For those who have never traveled, this will be a life changing experience simply because living abroad is extremely rewarding. You will challenge yourself, you will change your world view, and you will learn more about yourself than you probably ever have. Traveling is education, and as teachers it is our responsibility to be internationally and culturally conscious. It is impossible to teach your students to be responsible citizens of the world without becoming one yourself.