Living and teaching in a country where the culture and language is so different from home was such an incredible experience. As cliche as it sounds, student teaching abroad was one of the most amazing things I've ever done. Exploring Taiwan and everything it has to offer was so special to me; however, my absolute favorite thing about my experience abroad was being at school and seeing my students every day. My students, mentor teachers, and all of the administrators worked together to make my time at Fu Cheng Senior High feel like home from the very first day.
Even though I was the English teacher, my students taught me so much about themselves in terms of their lifestyles and culture. Learning about the differences between high school students in Taiwan compared to America was so fun, both for myself and for my students to experience. Take cram school, for example. Every day, students go to school from 7:30am to 4pm. From there, they have about a two hour break until they go to cram school, which is from 7-10pm. They go home, study until midnight, and then repeat the next day. It's incredible, really.
The most memorable experience overall was getting to meet so many different people that made my time in Taiwan so special. From my students, to other teachers at Fu Cheng, to my host family, to all the wonderful people involved in the ISU student teaching program in Taiwan...they all showed me so many different aspects of their culture. They taught me bits and pieces of Mandarin, shared their favorite foods, took me on weekend trips, and overall welcomed me into their lives.
What did you not expect?
Before arriving, I was told that I would have two different mentor teachers, one for 10th grade and one for 11th grade. By the end of my placement, I had taught in 4th, 7th, and 12th grade classrooms as well. At first I was nervous about teaching so many different classes, but now I am so grateful and lucky to be able to work with all of the amazing students I met. At first, I had no idea how large the class sizes were. After my second week, it felt normal (!) to be teaching classes of up to 40 students. Throughout my time teaching at Fu Cheng, I ended up teaching 17 different classes and working with eight different mentor teachers, which was completely different from my first placement.
What advice would you give?
Student teaching abroad is so special when you get to completely immerse yourself into your students' culture. Having the chance to experience an educational system other than in the US is incredibly eye-opening and is something that I hope more and more future teachers have the opportunity to experience.
How has this experience impacted your life?
On the plane to Taiwan, I didn't think that I wanted to pursue an ESL teaching job after I returned to the US. While this is still half-true, teaching in Taiwan helped me to realize that I hope to teach abroad again sometime in the near future. Living and teaching in a country where Mandarin is the official language brought with it challenges that I hope to experience again soon.
How did you learn about this experience?
I first learned about student teaching abroad at some point during my sophomore year, but didn't look into it until the semester before student teaching.International Connections