Lessons Learned a Long Way Away
Teachers travel overseas to immerse in language, culture
February 19, 2019
Soon to be teachers spend hours in a lecture hall–verb conjugations and vocab drilled into their heads. Teaching techniques engraved into their brains. No “real world” experience. Just another day in the classroom.
But this wasn’t the case for all Carroll teachers.
Through study abroad programs around the world, several CHS teachers have gained first-hand experience enriching their understanding of their specific teaching departments.
“I knew I wanted to teach foreign language and the level of teachers who studied abroad versus who haven’t–and have just learned in the classroom–is drastically different,” said Spanish teacher Mrs. Ndlovu. “I really wanted a school that would let me do that as a part of my learning experience.”
Ndlovu, having tripled-majored in French, Spanish, and secondary education, studied abroad in both France and Argentina to immerse herself in the language and culture of her target teaching subjects.
French teacher Mrs. Ravis had similar objectives in mind, attending the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada.
“The trip was amazing for improving my fluency,” said Ravis. “I took four years in high school and then four years in college and I truly only became fluent in speaking when I lived there.”
Aside from gaining lingual knowledge, studying overseas also opened the teachers’ eyes to different ways of educating students.
“People grade differently. People assess differently. There are a lot of different ways to do things and we get so set in our ways,” said Ndlovu. “As a teacher, it was really interesting to see different ways of doing things.”
Going from France to Argentina, with just a two-week break back home in the States in between, the difference in cultures was an adjustment for Ndlovu. After about a week in the loud and boisterous culture of Argentina, her host mom sat her down concerned about her stoic and seemingly “unhappy” demeanor.
“Normally, I’m a very bubbly, happy person, but I didn’t realize that living in Paris, you just kind of put on this serious, different face,” said Ndlovu. “It really challenged me to think about why we do all the things we do and what reflects who we are to the people around us. It can be interpreted so differently depending on where you are.”
While sitting in a lecture hall with a teacher going on about irregular verbs has its place, there is a key lesson that doesn’t quite fit the classroom curriculum. That can only be taught through time spent overseas where the country itself replaces the classroom: self-discovery.
“The experience forced me to be independent because I was living in another country where no one spoke English and that was really scary at first,” said Ravis. “It changed my perspective on life as a whole that when we are in situations that make us uncomfortable, it is then that we grow the most.”
Whether it’s a student interested in exploring new cultures or a teacher aspiring to cultivate their subject understanding, one thing is clear: studying abroad is transformative.
“It’s life-changing…As a developing person, it really impacts everything,” said Ndlovu. “The problem is that once you go, you might not want to come back.”