Many students on track to becoming educators are hesitant to take advantage of student teaching abroad opportunities and, as a result, miss out on an amazing experience. The common fears are that credits from an international program won’t transfer over or that the experience of being abroad would be distracting and it would be easy to fall behind. But if you’ve got an urge to travel, you should look into student teaching abroad.
Student teaching is a key component of all teacher certification programs. Most certification programs arrange these teaching opportunities at a school in the surrounding area, but some programs also allow you to travel abroad. Student teaching abroad programs are available in hundreds of countries all over the world, which make it a great way to study abroad and still complete your teaching credential on time.
Teaching abroad is an amazing experience. Not only do you get to travel and learn about other cultures, but you get to learn a great deal about yourself and your teaching abilities. It takes a lot to reach students across cultures and the experience is highly rewarding. Teachers who taught abroad while they were students often feel reaffirmed of their abilities. If you’re thinking about teaching abroad, here are four helpful tips to get you started:
1. Meet with your college advisor.
If you can, start planning during your sophomore year or the first semester of your junior year to make sure that you’re ahead of schedule in terms of required classes and credits. You don’t want to be stuck choosing a program based on filling your credit requirements. Most likely you will teach abroad during the first or second semester of your senior year. If you are obtaining your Master’s in Teaching through an accelerated program, you may be able to teach abroad after graduation.
2. Stop by the International or Study Abroad Department.
At many colleges and universities, student teaching abroad programs are placed under the International or Study Abroad Departments, so schedule a meeting with someone in the office or drop by the office to pick up some literature. Many colleges also outline their offerings online or by hosting Study Abroad presentations on campus. If you discover that your college or university doesn’t offer a student teaching abroad option, you may be able to participate in an exchange or partnership with another college. To find out more, just contact the program coordinator. There are also several third-party student teaching and teaching abroad organizations, such as COST, which may help you.
3. Choose your destination wisely and prepare yourself.
The greatest experience comes from stepping outside one’s own comfort zone and adapting to new cultures and places, but remember: You are expected to be a professional and held to the same -– if not higher — standard, as you would be as a student teacher at home. When choosing a destination for student teaching abroad, consider the language barrier as well as major cultural and educational differences. What is customary dress and behavior for teachers? Will you be expected to teach in American or UK English? Would you prefer to stay with a host family or live on your own? Are the dietary and religious customs compatible with your own?
4. Raise funds.
If you do your student teaching abroad through your college or university, the experience itself is often covered through your standard tuition — but travel expenses and room & board are not. This adds up quickly! You’ll eventually learn to live within your means, but it’s wise to have some money saved up for when you first arrive. Also, before you commit to teaching abroad, you’ll likely need to raise funds for airfare, living expenses, travel documents and, of course, spending money. Grant money may be available from your college or through the Department of Education, so be sure to reach out.
As you watch your classmates make plans to travel the world, consider packing your own bags too! Students in every corner of the globe are waiting many in schools with teacher shortages. And when you complete your student teaching abroad and obtain your teacher certification, there’s always a school at home looking for a globally minded teacher to hire.