International Connections


Mariah Fillman

Major: Elementary Education



Year: Senior
Hometown, State: IA

Type of experience: Student Teaching Abroad
Experience: International Student Teaching
Experience website: http://isuabroad.iastate.edu/?go=IntlTeaching
Destination: Ecuador

Overall experience..
This was an amazing and eye opening experience. I learned so much about teaching in an environment of different cultures and beliefs as well as myself as an individual. The best part about this experience was the close relationships that I gained with my host family, peers, students, and mentors. I feel as though I know have a second home and second family in Ecuador.

I learned...
I learned about this opportunity through ISUEA (now Future Teachers club)

An impact to my life...
I have recently accepted a job in the Des Moines Public School District as an ELL teacher. I believe that his experience made me very marketable for this position because of the unique lessons that I learned while student teaching abroad. The biggest lesson that I learned while on this trip is that being in a new country with a new culture and a different language is hard. I have always known that but this experience allowed me to feel that. I will be able to be more empathetic to my students feelings and needs when they arrive in my classroom from other areas of the world, or even a different state. Being an ELL teacher is my long term career goal. I am currently in an elementary school but I hope to move up to middle school or high school in the near future.

My most valuable learning experience...
The most valuable learning experience I encountered while in Ecuador is that relationships are the key to being a successful teacher. The social culture is highly valued in Ecuador, more so than it is in the United States. Students want to get to know their teacher and they want to be in an environment where they feel wanted and valued. This is a value that I will incorporate into my future classroom.

I will never forget...
My most memorable experience was when I became the musical chairs winner. As silly as that sounds, it was such a rewarding feeling. It wasn't rewarding because I won, it was rewarding because of the support I received from my students. They were cheering me on and were so happy for me that I had won. They wanted me to be successful.

A surprising discovery...
My cooperating teacher said something to me that really stuck. She said something along the lines of, most of the time students aren't trying to be disrespectful, they are just learning how to appropriately communicate so it is important to not take what they are saying or doing as disrespectful rather take it as a way to show them proper ways to handle things and don't be offended easily. This really stuck with me because I was working with students who were close to my age and you often hear adults saying that they are so disrespectful but a behavior does not have a meaning until you give it one. You may as well listen to the student, correct them if needed, and validate their feelings and thoughts.

Advice for others...
Do it. It is an opportunity of a lifetime that everyone should get to experience. It can be difficult at times but that is all part of the learning experience.

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