International Connections

Dana Skubal

Major: Elementary Education

Year: Senior
Hometown, State: Ainsworth, Iowa

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

Overall experience..
My overall experience student teaching in Norway was incredible. The school was basically a family. They welcomed me from day one. The students were willing to practice their English with me and for us to learn together. They were very kind and respectful. The language barrier was there, but was not much of a problem. Students loved teaching me Norwegian words and they were constantly practicing their English. I could tell a huge difference in their speaking from when I first got there to the last week I was with them. I experienced so much personal and career growth.

I learned...
I learned about this opportunity at the first student teaching meeting. I had heard about people traveling abroad, but it did not seem like an option for me until I saw more details about how the programs worked.

An impact to my life...
This experience has made me much more globally aware. The world seems like a smaller place now that I have physically traveled and experienced a new culture. Having an experience where I was the minority for the language was challenging, but rewarding. It is going to help me in my future classroom. As for my education and career goals, the biggest growth was in how to help English Language Learners (ELL). I learned how to use visuals, repetition, simple vocabulary, and how to think of multiple ways to reteach something. I have never really worked with such language barriers before; it definitely helped me grow as an educator. I feel much more comfortable with having ELLs in my future classroom because of this experience.

My most valuable learning experience...
One of the biggest learning experiences was how the students reacted to their school schedule. These students had "free minute" or recess between every single class period. There was a huge difference in their focus and attention because of these breaks. These students paid attention in class more than I had ever seen in the United States. They knew they would have a break soon, so they were able to make themselves focus longer. I think having small breaks in my future classroom will be something I emphasize when I start teaching.

I will never forget...
One of the most memorable experiences I had was with my students at a school lock-in. During the lock-in with my sixth grade class, students came to school at 6 p.m. and set up all their stuff in the gym. I created a Viking scavenger hunt that went with my social studies unit and students had to run all around the school to complete it. We did a relay race, played a game of charades that practiced their English verbs, played games with the giant parachute, and had a dance party. We also ate homemade Norwegian pizza, watched a movie in English, and stayed up for most of the night. It was a great evening to end my time with the students.

A surprising discovery...
Something I did not expect was how much students and teachers knew about the United States. They were very up to date with our politics, movies, music, and fashion. Students constantly sang American music. The radio and TV were about half in English and half in Norwegian. I am much more aware of how other countries view America. I am also more aware of how little I knew about other countries. This experience has made me more motivated to become more culturally aware.

Advice for others...
My advice to any student who wants to student teach abroad is to apply! I went into this experience willing to be flexible. I learned so much by just interacting and putting myself out there. I learned with my teachers and students. Everyone I met was proud of their culture and wanted to share as much as they could. This is a unique experience where you meet people at all stages of life and get an idea of how their home life, school life, and social life works. Going into the experience with an open mind helped me utilize every new opportunity I could. Anyone who is slightly interested in going abroad absolutely should; there were no regrets from this experience!

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