Overall my experience was great! Student teaching internationally was one for the books because I was able to teach during the weeks and travel on the weekends. The dynamics of the relationships with the teachers was that the expectation was to work hard during the weeks and explore on the weekends. My personal teacher provided opportunities for me to get involved in the local community beyond the classroom. Working in the community and volunteering helped to shape my experience because I felt planted, I found that it was actually hard to want to leave. It is hard to leave a country where there are adventures and beauty around every corner as well as friendly people. If you're looking for a place where you learn a lot and explore everything, NZ is the place for you.
The most valuable thing that I was able to experience was seeing other guidelines and ways to teach food and nutrition. Being an FCS teacher I feel that I have been taught a way of potentially raising the bar and now have the toolbox to create a more rigorous program. While New Zealand technically has different guidelines than the US National FCS Standards how the class was taught lined up really well with the US standards. I was able to see how food and nutrition could be taught more completely and that is something that I know I will be putting into my future classroom.
One of the weekends we had was a long weekend due to a holiday on Monday. We decided to venture our way down to the Catlins, we ended up running into one of the teachers and they adopted our group for the weekend. They let us stay in an extra cottage, play cards with them, and even join for a true kiwi barbeque. That was the weekend I swam with four porpoises, they naturally swam up to and alongside me, it was one of the coolest things! We also were able to see so many cool things naturally occurring in nature, but I think what made that weekend the best was the family (families) that let us in on their vacation.
What did you not expect?
One thing that surprised me was how the formal assessments looked in the classroom. One of the assessments was five hours long and comprehensive but more work and justification oriented. How that assessment was formalized and made the students show their understanding blew my mind. The teacher also allowed the students to do resubmissions and provided class time for them to work on the resubmission before they received their final grade. Overall I think the budget that they had allows them more freedom and flexibility than a typical FCS class in the states. However, it was great to see how the class could be held to its full potential at assessments and throughout the time that I was with them. In my teaching position back home I know that the tests are already pre-made for the district. I am hoping that I will have the opportunity to challenge and create a more in-depth assessment.
What advice would you give?
My advice for other student teachers is to do it, study abroad and live somewhere else. In the future you never know if you will have the opportunity to live and work in another country. Specifically teaching in another country and seeing another form of education in the classroom was beneficial for me, so I say do it. Take every experience that is laid before you, try different ways of teaching before you have your own classroom. Now is the time to do it, ask questions, try new things and engage with your students.
How has this experience impacted your life?
Student teaching in New Zealand has given me the travel bug, who would have guessed? I was impacted by being able to live and work in a different culture. I don't know if I ever would have lived abroad without this experience, and now I could see myself living abroad again in the future. I would not say that this experience particularly changed many of my goals became more clear that was the path I am hoping to follow. I think that while I gained the travel bug I realized how much I missed being at home for important life experiences for friends and family. I was able to see what it was like to skype in for a wedding, getting phone calls about engagements, and celebrating family's birthdays from afar. While I missed being there to celebrate I met new people and was able to create new friendships. I have gained the experience of living abroad and wanting to live abroad again, however, realizing that most of my goals will keep me near home permanently I am thankful I was able to have this life-changing experience.
How did you learn about this experience?
The first time I heard about this opportunity was in one of the general education courses. When I heard about it when I was in my sophomore year I was intrigued, as college continued I forgot about the potential opportunity. The semester before student teaching there was a student teaching abroad fair, there is where I truly became interested and was able to hear about this particular placement.International Connections