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Study Abroad Prepares Students to be Interculturally Competent Teachers

To coincide with NC State’s International Education Month, it’s important to highlight the impactful study abroad programs that are available to College of Education students through the International + Distance Education Alliance.

For future educators specifically, study abroad opportunities broaden cultural experiences and allow future teachers to be more interculturally competent while teaching in diverse learning environments.

One of the study abroad programs offered at the College of Education, Culture, Language and Service Learning for Educators, is designed to provide student-teachers with first hand experience working with students in a different cultural context, preparing them to teach in diverse classroom settings.

Through a combination of pre and post-departure seminars and an eleven day international immersion in Guanajuato, Mexico, students in this program are afforded valuable experiences that help them become stronger and more diverse teachers upon their return.

In addition to volunteering and participating in service learning at a local Guanajuato school, students partaking in Culture, Language and Service Learning for Educators also stay with host families in the area to gain a better understanding of the Mexican culture.

This summer, students who participated in the program had overwhelmingly positive experiences.

According to one student, the most important experience was learning Spanish and teaching English at the local elementary school. By learning Spanish as a new language, it inspired the student to think about how to improve her teaching of English in her own classroom. She realized that language context is very important for a second language learner. Therefore, as a teacher, she plans to embed more authentic learning opportunities.

Dr. Micha Jeffries, a faculty member at CED and coordinator of this program, strongly believes in the enriching power of study abroad and Culture, Language and Service Learning for Educators. She said,

“This program yields many enriching experiences. One enriching part of this program is providing the participants an opportunity to observe and teach in Mexican public schools. Our participants value learning about varied pedagogies, curriculum, and instructional tools that are used by the Mexican teachers. Additionally, participants are able to teach English lessons to the Mexican students who have limited English proficiency.”

College of Education students and faculty aren’t the only ones who laud the Culture, Language and Service Learning for Educators program. According to Dr. Jeffries, the host teachers were eager to learn innovative instructional practices from our students. They also welcome the opportunity for their students to learn English from native speakers.

When asked about why studying abroad is so beneficial to students and future teachers, Dr. Jeffries said,

“When participants experience intercultural opportunities by learning about a culture’s norms, beliefs, and attitudes, deficit structures of assumptions and expectations are disrupted. Therefore, study abroad opportunities allow participants to experience what it means to be/live as ‘other’, consider multiple perspectives, and develop the ability to see values and behaviors as cultural instead of universal.”

To learn more about how to get involved with the Culture, Language and Service Learning for Educators program or about all College of Education study abroad opportunities, check out the International + Distance Education Alliance’s site.