International Connections

Meghan O'Meara

Major: Teacher Licensure (Secondary Education)

Minor/option/emphasis: Political Science; Psychology

Year: Graduate
Hometown, State: Bloomington, IL

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

Overall experience..
The opportunity to student teach abroad was on of the most beneficial experiences in my life. The ability to immerse myself in new cultures, languages, religions, the opportunity to meet new people with differing ideas and thoughts, the chance to walk among the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and the ability to work with students in a new and challenging environment, are now some of my most cherished memories.

I learned...
I first heard of international student teaching through the School of Education's first meeting that dealt with where exactly future student teachers might want to be placed.

An impact to my life...
My experience in Poland has impacted my life both personally and professionally. This experience afforded me the opportunity to grow as both a teacher, and more generally as a human being. It gave me the ability to understand the lives of people who are considered different from me, challenged me in almost every way possible - from attempting to travel, to dealing with the language barrier, to pushing the boundaries of my culinary experiences, and provided me with a strong moral and professional foundation which was built upon the independence and high expectations that international student teaching expects.

My most valuable learning experience...
I think my experience was different than most study abroad experiences just because I was in the role of teacher versus student. For me the most valuable learning experience I got from this was really working with my students day in and day out. It afforded me the ability to get to know the native people at a level I didn't expect, allowed me to truly participate in the culture of Poland, and challenged me, specifically as a teacher to come up with lesson that were not only engaging and exciting, but also at a more fundamental level, lessons that Polish students would be able to understand.

I will never forget...
In Poland, instead of having a spring break they have what they call an Easter break. For Easter two other teachers and I decided to take a trip to Prague, Czech Republic. On one of out last nights there we decided to splurge a little and had dinner on a river boat that sat along the Danbue River. I remember sitting in the restaurant, surrounded by people speaking all kinds of different languages, as the sun was setting and shinning on the river. In the background we could see the silhouette of St. Charles bridge and the castle upon the hill, and I though to myself, "I never thought I'd get here, and I'm so thankful I have." I was one of the most breathtaking experiences I had.

A surprising discovery...
If there is one thing that I learned through teaching abroad it is that no matter what you do professionally, and no matter if you do it in the United States or if you decide to go abroad, you need to make connections. It is so important, especially when you're in a place where there a very few people who can support you. Get to know the people in charge both professionally, but also on a personal level. You never know when they might be able to help you out!

Advice for others...
Do it!! No, seriously, do it. You'll be scared, you'll might try to talk yourself out of it, or doubt that you have what it takes, but here's the thing; You absolutely are capable. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and no matter where you go - whether its a big city in Italy, a little village in South America, or a small town in Poland, I have no doubt that it will change your life for the better.

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