Abby Weeks

Major: Elementary Education
Class: Senior
Timeframe: Spring 2023
Program: International Student Teaching
Destination: Norway

Overall Experience

My overall experience in Norway was amazing! Student teaching abroad was incredible and I've been able to learn so much. My school was very welcoming and the teachers were all so kind. Norwegian schools were amazing to teach in and I learned so much throughout my eight weeks. So many people in town invited us into their homes and helped us with everything. Norway is absolutely beautiful and I loved getting to spend so much time outdoors. We were able to go on walks, hike mountains, and even just sit outside and enjoy the view. If given the chance, I would without a doubt redo it all in a heartbeat.

Learning experience

Something I appreciated most after student teaching in Norway is how valued the students are. In the schools, it is so apparent that the students are always put first. The teachers want what’s best for their students academically, but more so for their wellbeing. My cooperating teachers (and all teachers in the building) were always checking in on students, differentiating for each student as needed, and truly cared for their students. I loved how succeeding academically was still a goal, but wasn’t the only goal that the schools had.

Memorable experience

My most memorable experience was when my classes spent all day hiking a mountain. All week the weather was beautiful, so my cooperating teachers decided to let the kids enjoy it and be outside. They wanted to let the students be out in the sun and fresh air, and you could tell the students were excited to have a break from classes. I had been on some shorter hikes after school with the other Iowa State students, but we were told that those mountains were too small and everyone considered those a walk. My teachers and students were all very excited to take me on a "real Norwegian hike" up a big mountain. We spent all morning hiking and ate lunch at the top. I loved hiking with my students because it was such a great way to talk to them and get to know them even better. The hike was amazing and at the top we were able to see so much of the area. All of my students pointed out where they lived, Halsnøy Island (where we were living), where they play soccer, and so many other places. I love that nature is such an important piece of Norwegian culture and that they value spending time being outdoors and being active. It was such a neat experience that I hadn't had in schools in Iowa.

What did you not expect?

I was surprised by how relaxed and student centered the schools were. We followed a schedule each day, but if we didn’t get to one of the lessons it was easy to move it back a day. In the past, I’ve always felt pressed for time and trying to make sure everything planned gets done. In Norway, it wasn’t stressful to push back plans or move things around. It was very different from what I was used to, but I appreciated that aspect of the schools so much. I wasn’t ever worried or stressed about getting through everything I had planned.

What advice would you give?

My biggest pieces of advice are to get to know your students and teachers well, and travel as often as you can on the weekends. All of our teachers were so kind and they have so much experience and ideas to give. They want the best for their students, but they also want you to succeed. My teachers gave me total freedom to plan lessons and units that I was interested in trying, and they were so supportive throughout the eight weeks. The students are also amazing. They love talking and getting to know you and it’s so fun learning about their lives and interests. This is also a great chance to practice your Norwegian, they will love teaching you and listening to you attempt to pronounce everything! Every weekend we tried to plan somewhere to travel to and we were able to see and do so much! Whether it’s a short day trip or a whole weekend, go out and travel wherever you can!

How has this experience impacted your life?

As a future teacher, having the opportunity to student teach in another country was amazing. I had the chance to experience a new education system, learn new skills, and work extensively with ESL students. I truly grew as an educator because I was able to learn from my Norwegian cooperating teachers and try new things I hadn’t before. I was also working with students whose first language was not English, so I gained a lot of practice and experience differentiated my lessons in that aspect. Aside from teaching, I was lucky enough to live in Norway for two months. I was able to get out of my comfort zone constantly. I grew as a person by always trying new things, traveling to new places, and meeting new people. Living in another country across the world gave me a new perspective and worldview. I saw a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences to the U. S. It was amazing to get to see a new way of life and meet so many new people with different stories and backgrounds!

How did you learn about this experience?

I first heard about student teaching internationally my freshman year in our orientation class, and I've wanted to go abroad ever since. I was told about the open house for Student Teaching and that's where I really narrowed down my top choices of where to go.

International Connections