International Connections

Eleanor Harkness

Major: Elementary Education

Minor/option/emphasis: Math Endorsement ; Reading Endorsement

Year: Senior
Hometown, State: Minnesota

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

Overall experience..
I lived in a village in Norway called Rosendal with a population of about 1,000. While living in Rosendal, there were a total of 9 student teachers from the U.S. (4 from ISU and 5 from University of Arizona). We lived in two cabins right on the fjord. I taught in a school, Undarheim, that was a 45 minute bus ride from the cabin in a town called Husnes. In total, Undarheim has about 250 students in 1st-7th grade. I was placed in 5th-7th grade, working with over 100 students. During my time in the school, I mostly taught English, but also went on a skiing field trip, was a judge for a cooking contest, taught country line dancing, observed math, and integrated music, games, and technology.

I learned...
Through previous participants and the international student teaching informational meeting.

An impact to my life...
My participation in this experience has expanded my comfort and confidence levels. In the beginning, it was uncomfortable to be an "outsider" in the school. I could not understand everything going on around me and it took more time to develop relationships with the teachers and students because of the language barriers. This opened my eyes to the isolation ESL and ELL students and families feel and gave me experience with new strategies for working with ELL students. In addition, I experienced a much different lifestyle while teaching in Norway. Society is set up in ways that allows people to have balance in their lives. I experienced less stress and pressure because of this. Coming back home, I would like to find ways to maintain and prioritize this balance in my life.

My most valuable learning experience...
The most valuable learning experience was to become comfortable not knowing what is going to happen. In the U.S., and particularly as a teacher, there is a lot of pressure to always have a perfect plan; however, the same is not true in Norway. People operate with more flexibility and unknowns. Because of this, I learned to be ok with some unknowns, as well as how to always have a plan for when I am faced with something unexpected.

I will never forget...
What I will remember most is the sense of welcome I felt in Norway. The many people I met and became to know were welcoming and eager to provide me with new experiences. This includes horseback riding, sailing, meals at homes, parties with the teachers, or the sharing of recipes.

A surprising discovery...
I was most surprised by the handling of classroom and behavior management in the school. Often I felt that there were many distractions resulting in such little learning. For me, this reinforced the importance of clear classroom expectations and routines.

Advice for others...
Have an open mind to the experience and differences in education. The most beneficial aspect of the experience is how you choose to reflect on the occurrences and apply it to what you have observed in the U.S. In addition, be patient; it will take time to adjust to the new setting and might be a bit of a shock. Over time, you will find a place and the students will open up.

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