My overall experience was absolutely amazing. New Zealand has so much to offer and so much to see. I have always loved traveling but New Zealand is probably one of my favorite places. The people are so friendly and great to know and the country is so beautiful. There is so much to do while you are traveling around and adventuring. The past eight weeks have been a wonderful learning opportunity for myself. I think anyone who has the opportunity to travel through Iowa State’s International Program should take it because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. During my time in New Zealand, I have gotten to experience new foods, cultures, people, and sites to see. My favorite place to go was Tunnel Beach in Dunedin. It had the most breathtaking views and was a lot of fun. I have also made lifelong relationships with people in New Zealand and the girls I had the chance to travel with. I hope to return some day and be able to come back and visit those people.
The most valuable learning experience I encountered was learning to build independent learns by actively assigning self-regulated learning. This allows students to work at their own pace and gives the students more control of their own learning. It is a much more student focused way of learning rather than teacher focused. I really enjoyed it and could see myself using a similar strategy in my classroom. I also learned that physical activity is very important for students, especially middle school students. In New Zealand, the students are very active throughout the day. They are rarely sitting at a desk for more than an hour and a half. They often go outside to play games like rugby, baseball, or cricket. The learning environment is very outdoorsy as the rooms have windows on all sides and doors that can open up and allow fresh air in. The students enjoyed this and typically were more focused because they were given so much time to stay active and get all their energy out.
I will never forget our welcome to The Terrace School. We were welcomed with a traditional Maori dance, the Haka dance and Powhiri celebration. We were led in by students speaking in Maori and participated in the traditional ceremony. The students also did a dance and sang that welcomed us to the school. It was such an amazing experience to see my own students that I had in class participating and speaking in Maori and leading the dance. I was so impressed and so in awe of the tradition that is being carried on through the school systems in New Zealand. It was such an amazing experience and so great that they are able to carry on the Maori native culture by teaching the students about it and letting them learn the culture and be a part of it. I will also never forget how welcoming the people there are. We were going traveling for one of our weekends and we weren’t sure what turn to take so we thought we would stop and ask for directions. We happened to bump into one of the teachers at our school and one of my students. We explained that we were unsure of where to go and they offered to let us stay with them and hang out with them the entire weekend. They were so welcoming and kind. I won’t ever forget how gracious they were. After that weekend, they continued inviting us over for dinner and activities and welcomed us into their homes. I am so grateful to have met such wonderful people during my time in New Zealand.
What did you not expect?
I was surprised by the fact that they don't have strict schedules with the content they teach. They decide to teach things whenever they feel like it and when it goes well with other activities going on throughout the day. If a lesson is going well they can just go with it and if something isn't going well, they can end it and reflect on it to change it. I was also surprised at the amount of independent work the students do. They participate in a lot of self regulated learning. Rarely are the teachers teaching whole groups. This might change the manner of how I approach teaching because I can see myself trying to give students a short bit of independent work time in order to teach the students time management and self regulation.
What advice would you give?
My advice for other student teachers is to take every chance that you can get. Traveling anywhere for student teaching is really a once in a lifetime opportunity. No matter where you go, you are going to experience something absolutely wonderful. The experience through student teaching internationally is something that just can’t be done anywhere else. Not only are you student teaching but you are learning and experiencing and making memories that will last forever. New Zealand is such a beautiful place, take lots of photos to remember the times. Be willing to try new things even if you don’t normally because it is so worth it. The food and experiences in New Zealand are a great place to start trying new things. Most of all, spend time getting to know the people, you can learn so much from them and build lifelong relationships.
How has this experience impacted your life?
My international experience has made an impact to my life because it provided me with an opportunity that I couldn’t have done on my own. My experience in New Zealand showed me the similarities and differences between my life and culture compared to others’ life and culture. I think I have a unique understanding of culture and could make connections with students who have different cultures than myself. I think this experience also gives me a unique perspective in the classroom because I have experience working with different education systems around the world. Traveling abroad has made me much more comfortable and independent and build my coincidence to travel and teach in other places.
How did you learn about this experience?
I learned about student teaching abroad through programs during my junior year of college. My teacher and supervisor, Lisa Norris, was the one who really inspired me to take the chance and go to New Zealand. With the encouragement from Lisa and my family I decided to take the chance to go.International Connections