International Connections

Nolan Shanks

Major: Teacher Licensure (Secondary Education)

Minor/option/emphasis: Political Science

Year: Graduate
Hometown, State: Moville, IA

Type of experience: Student Teaching
Experience: International Student Teaching
Experience website:
Destination: Krosno, Poland

Overall experience..
This was one of the most beneficial experiences during my time at Iowa State. One of my main goals going into this experience was learning about the history of Central and Eastern Europe and it's affects on international relations on modern politics. While being completely immersed culturally through traveling in countries like Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic I experienced all of what Europe had to offer. I can not express my gratitude enough to Iowa State University and to Dr. Bremer, my program coordinator.

I learned...
I first learned about this experience during one of the most academically challenging courses ISU has to offer, HIST 498 with Dr. Bremer. While forcing us to our limits during this class Dr. Bremer showed us what it takes in becoming an effective teacher. Thankfully, he was not terribly difficult during my time in Poland. Dr. Bremer is vastly competent in the fields of History and education and once you get to know him, he is incredibly kind and supportive.

An impact to my life...
What I am most excited about is bringing in my own global experiences into my classroom to cultivate student engagement. Even though I did not get to see everything I wanted to while in Europe, the experiences and stories that I have gained will help me become a successful teacher. I have been in amazing museums, I have seen beautiful architecture, I have experienced gorgeous cities and talked to its people. Through these experiences, I can help my students understand that the world I much larger and can provide a more fulfilling understanding of what it means to be a part of diverse cultures. By spreading this cultural understanding I hope to build generations of students that are more accepting and willing to see different cultures of people with curiosity rather than disdain.

My most valuable learning experience...
Teaching in Poland has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me in that it has helped me have greater sense of empathy to students struggling with the English language. In our first week, our main objective was to observe ‘typical’ Polish classrooms. Sitting in on classes that I couldn’t understand was very frustrating in that I wanted to learn but there was no scaffolding for me to be successful in my own goals. Gaining this greater sense of empathy towards the increasing number of students in the United States which struggle in English comprehension was one of the main reasons that I chose to student teach internationally. As a teacher, I have always had empathy for students that struggle in the classroom; however, until you get put into their shoes it is virtually impossible to understand what they go through. This powerful experience has helped me develop my own teaching strategies in building confidence in students developing their English skills.

I will never forget...
One of my memorable experiences happened during one of our weekends in Krakow. After one of the most solemn days touring through Auschwitz- Birkenau my fellow student teachers and I wanted to have an relaxing night out. Our night started in a packed underground jazz club. Our host sat us with a group of four bald men in a corner of the club which originally was an old wine cellar. These men happened to be a family of wealthy Irishmen on a vacation and they were relatively pleased with our company and us with them. A relaxing night out quickly turned into a group of twenty and forty year olds and a seventy six year old patriarch singing classic rock to a live band. None-the-less it was an amazing night.

Advice for others...
If you wish to student teach internationally you must commit, plan and execute fully in order to get everything possible out of this experience. Do not waste this opportunity, it is well worth it.

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