I am a sophomore History and Social Studies Secondary Education major at Grove City College. Along with nine other preservice teachers and two wonderful professors, I recently had the opportunity to travel to London and Paris for a 10-day course on issues in education. Here are my top ten reasons why preservice teachers should study abroad.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or stepping on a plane for your very first time, traveling can present you with unexpected challenges. Being in an unfamiliar environment can be very daunting, like adapting to cars driving on the left in England. However, with a bit of confidence and the support of people you are traveling with, you will be walking the streets of a foreign city like a pro. Teachers face many challenges every day, so it is great for us to learn how to grow from them!
Experience other cultures
Visiting other countries lets you become immersed in other ways of life. From trying new foods to observing interactions between locals, there is so much to learn about other cultures! When abroad, I find it useful to downplay my American routines and mannerisms and really try to take part in the local culture. The locals see this as polite, and it lets you experience the culture on a deeper level. Experiencing other cultures will help us to appreciate the many ways in which our future students are diverse.
Learn a new language
Part of experiencing a new culture is learning a language. Even if you are abroad for a short time like I was, it is still useful to learn some key important phrase! Even British English uses different words and phrases for some things that can be cool to learn. Locals appreciate it when visitors at least attempt to speak some of their languages, even if you aren’t that good at it. Similarly, teachers need to find ways to connect with their students, possibly through their language if they don’t speak English or in other ways.
Make new friends
When you travel in a small group as I did, you quickly grow close to the members of your group. Even though we had only met days earlier, it seemed as if we had all known each other for a while. If it weren’t for the travel course, it is likely I would have never met some of these new friends.
Build professional skills
While studying abroad, you often have chances to develop professional skills. On my trip, we had to collaborate all the time as we figured out the best route to take on the London Underground or through the streets of Paris. We also developed leadership skills as we took turns navigating for our group. Learning to compromise on the various things we wanted to do was also important. These are all incredibly important skills to have as teachers.
See things you’ve learned about and/or will teach about
When I was abroad, I was so excited to see so many things that I had learned about in school for many years, like Buckingham Palace, Hammurabi’s Code, and so much more! These experiences can enhance my instruction about these important historical topics. This is why field trips are so important. If possible, letting students see what they are learning about makes infinitely more impactful and fun!
Learn about other school systems
On my trip, we were able to visit a primary school in London. It was interesting to learn how the English school system is structured. We got to observe in classrooms and talk with teachers. In any country abroad, this can be a great way to see what cultural attitudes and relations between adults and students are like. It was great to be in community with fellow educators from overseas!
See the world
Yes, this one is obvious, but it’s one of the best things about studying abroad. It is so easy to do through your college or university. Trips are usually organized and pre-planned by faculty. After college, opportunities to travel abroad may become fewer and less affordable, so this is the best time to do it! An added plus is that there are often scholarships that are offered by travel agencies, your educational institution, and other organizations.
Let’s face it. Things do not always go to plan. That’s where backup plans and a positive attitude come in! Sometimes you might miss your train or get to an attraction after it’s closed. Teachers always need to think on their feet and find new ways to do things. When things happened on our trip that we couldn’t control, it led to opportunities to do new things and experience the cities in other ways. It is important to look on the bright side and be flexible!
Look for the Similarities
When you’re abroad, it will be easy to see the things that are different from your own culture. However, if you take the time to look for similarities, you will find those really easily too! Teachers in England have the same goals as American teachers and often face many of the same challenges, but their desire to teach is still driven by a love for their students. Students, despite their various cultures, are very similar too! So, don’t get caught up in the differences, because it can be cool to see all the things people around the world share in common!
Nick Buonaugurio is a sophomore History and Social Studies Secondary Education major at Grove City College. Having traveled internationally multiple times before, Nick recently studied abroad short-term in the UK and France, enjoying the rich history both countries offer. He sees opportunities like this as an excellent way for pre-service teachers to become more well-rounded and enhance the skills they will need as a teacher.