International Connections

Courtney Wilson

Major: Elementary Education

Year: Graduate
Hometown, State: IA

Type of experience: Student Teaching
Experience: ISU International Student Teaching
Experience website:
Destination: Norway

Overall experience..
There were many positive things I experienced while teaching at Undarheim Skule. One is that I had the opportunity to teach and get to know so many students. In the United States we primarily teach one class of 26-30 students. Here I taught nearly 100 students, which is almost half of the kids that attend Undarheim Skule. I also got the chance to learn more about teaching English to English Language Learners. This was great practice for me because in the United States we often have students who have English as their second language. I especially learned the importance of visuals, speaking clearly, hand gestures, and supporting students who are self conscious about speaking in English. English language arts is also one of my endorsements, therefore I was able to get a lot of experience learning how to teach English. I had a lot of fun coming up with creative lesson, to help my students learn and grow to their fullest ability. I also had the chance to experience Norwegian culture, see beautiful sites, meet my family members in Norway, and create life long friendships.

I learned...
I learned about this opportunity during the first student teaching meeting. They were talking about the locations in which you could student teach at and talked about the international program. This is when I started to think about student teaching abroad.

An impact to my life...
During my stay here I got to experience what it feels like to be the minority in a country. I learned how to adapt to a new culture, language barrier, school system, etc. I got a small glimpse of what some of my students and their families might be going through when I become a teacher. I now know of ways I can help them if they are new to our country. I know this because we had to seek out help for transportation and translations the entire time we were here. Even going to the grocery store was a struggle because we could not read any of the labels. Gaining this perspective has helped me grow as an individual as well as expand my worldview. This was my first time traveling in Europe, therefore I now have a much broader world view. Throughout this experience I also learned how to be even more flexible when teaching and to change my lessons as I teach. I especially had to do this here because I was teaching ELL students. I learned that changing lessons is best if it benefits the students learning. I used to stress out about changing lessons, but since Norway is a very relaxing place, it was easy to not stress out about this like I used to in the United States. Therefore, teaching was especially enjoyable here and less stressful. Teaching here helped me learn that there is no reason to be so stressed out about the simple things. This is something that helped me grow as an individual and is something I will take back with me to the United States. I have always struggled with overly stressing about things and this experience helped me to become more relaxed.

I will never forget...
One of the most memorable experiences was getting the chance to teach music. Teaching music has always been a dream of mine and I really enjoyed being able to fulfill this dream at Undareheim Skule. I studied music for two years in college; therefore, I was able to apply my knowledge to my teaching. I also learned that music is a great way to help English Language Learners practice speaking and reading English. Teaching music also helped me connect with the students because they really enjoyed learning the songs I taught them. It helped them feel more comfortable speaking English to me. Music is something I will always continue to use in the classroom because it is a very important part of education.

Advice for others...
Take the chance and do it. I was very skeptical and worried about leaving my family and especially my husband for eight weeks. However, I had the most amazing experience and I'm so happy I decided to be brave. I am very glad I took a chance on a once in a lifetime opportunity. I learned not only how to be a better teacher, but a better person as well. I also learned about another country’s educational system and was able to gain ideas of things I can use in the United States. I want to say thank-you to all the wonderful people who helped make our experiences so great. I am going to miss teaching in Norway and I hope I will get the chance to come back to visit someday.

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