UPEI students travel abroad for 'eye-opening' teaching experience
About half of program's students heading abroad to Japan, Vietnam, Sweden, Kenya and Haiti
Teaching is a worldwide profession and some UPEI students are going to experience classrooms around the world in the coming weeks.
Japan, Vietnam, Haiti, Sweden and France are just some of the places students are travelling to for six-week practicum placements.
Bachelor of education students have the opportunity to go anywhere in the world for their placement and about half of the 75 students this year are taking advantage of the opportunity, the largest cohort the program has had since its inception in 1998. Most will be teaching in English, which is in high demand in many countries, but a few are teaching in French.
Students have to take at least one extra course in international education, have to pay for the experience themselves and don't receive any compensation for their teaching. But students say the extra effort and investment is worth it to broaden their experiences and personal development.
Carolyn Francis, the co-ordinator of the bachelor of education program, says this year students will be traveling to 15 locations, including two going to rural Kenya, three going north of the Arctic Circle and another 10 going to New Zealand.
The school has connections with schools in host countries and has also been helped by non-profits, such as Farmers Helping Farmers.
She noted the different cultures and education systems around the world offers students an "eye-opening" experience.
Kelsie MacIntyre, from North Milton, P.E.I., is trading the Island winter for the chill of northern Sweden.
She and two other students will teach at a school in Jokkmokk, north of the Arctic Circle.
"I'm really most excited to see how they work through their education system and to bring that stuff back home and be able to implement in my own classroom," she said.
A personal connection is bringing London, Ont., native Alexa Camirand to Haiti for her placement.
Her brother was adopted from an orphanage there and she'll be going as both a teacher for the students and teachers on the small island.
She'll teach French to students up to Grade 6, but in Haiti, the average age for that grade is 16 years old compared to 10 years old in Canada.
"I'm going to be the most qualified student-teacher or teacher in the school, they just don't have enough qualified teachers so that's going to be really different from what we see here in Canada," she said.
Cornwall, P.E.I., native Frankie Jean McGuigan is going to Lille, France, where the teaching is mainly lecture-based and, compared to Canada, involves a lot of memorization and testing.
"I want to learn a lot about the French culture, I think that's something that would be very useful to me as a French teacher on P.E.I.," she said.
"I'll be able to incorporate a lot of that into my classroom, not only the language but customs from France. I think it's very important for French students on P.E.I. to be exposed to those cultural aspects, such as food, slang or movies."
The international opportunity was one of the reasons Andrew Kostyniuk came to UPEI from Alberta.
He's going to Japan for his placement and is looking forward to the very different educational philosophy compared to Canada.
He hopes to bring his experience back to P.E.I. to better help immigrant students as classrooms become more diverse.
"It's going to give me a better understanding of what cultures some students might bring to classrooms," he said.
"It's really hard to understand the sort of biases I might bring into a classroom when I'm only teaching in the classrooms that I'm accustomed to, so by stepping outside of my comfort zone, I hope to re-evaluate the biases I bring and develop a better, more wholesome teaching style."
Marie-Pier Savoie is heading to the warmth of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she is going to a school run by fellow New Brunswickers.
She's been to the country briefly before and is looking forward to being immersed in the culture.
"The whole aspect of cultural traditions and how to teach differently and how to teach to our Canadian students that the world is very big and there are many students that are learning differently all over the world, I think that's important," she said.
Some students are leaving as early as this week, while others have to wait a few more weeks.
They will have to check in weekly throughout their time abroad and when they come back, they will each make a presentation on what their experiences were like and what they learned.
"Even though I haven't gone yet," Kelsie MacIntyre said.
"I would definitely recommend it to any future education students at UPEI to take this opportunity to go internationally."
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