April 27, 2016
The education majors started this semester in Tampa with a 10-week internship at one of Hillsborough County’s schools. They then packed up and headed to Northern Ireland where they are completing a seven-week internship in Belfast.
While they have climbed the lava rocks on Giants Causeway and paid tribute to St. Patrick’s gravesite in Downpatrick, the five University of Tampa seniors spending half of this semester in Northern Ireland have said their time in the classroom has been the greatest impact.
“Professionally, this trip has prepared me to be more knowledgeable and aware of the different cultures and diversities that students bring into the classroom,” said Sariah Cafiero ’16, an elementary education major from Sag Harbor, NY. “It is such an important skill to be able to create an environment where all students feel safe and welcome, especially when it comes to religion and culture.”
The education majors started this semester in Tampa with a 10-week internship at one of Hillsborough County’s schools. They then packed up and headed to Northern Ireland where they are completing a seven-week internship in Belfast, half the time in courses at Stranmillis University College and the other half as interns in the local school district.
“The goal of the seven weeks was to be immersed into another education system, one that is very different from ours,” said Saran Hofman ’16, an elementary education major with ESOL endorsement from Maple Grove, MN. “I have learned how to do outdoor learning, which is much more than just taking learning outdoors. I have done interactive lessons that have required me to be much more creative. I have taught P.E., music, dance and art — all things I have not taught in the United States. I hope this experience has helped me become a better educator for when I have my own classroom in August.”
Merrie Tankersley, UT’s clinical education director, said this unique course blends study abroad with the internship requirements education majors need to fulfill. She had noticed that due to the strict requirements mandated by the State of Florida for certification, there was very little wiggle room to accommodate a study abroad opportunity and graduate on time. This course lets them do both.
“The biggest benefit for education majors in studying abroad is in gaining a more global perspective,” said Tankersley. “I can already tell from their questions and reflections that they are thinking differently about culture and the way things could be done.”
Sarah Miller ’16, an elementary education major from Gurnee, IL, said the experience has encouraged her to work toward a master’s in international curriculum and potentially work overseas.
“This has inspired me to want to continue to learn about international educations systems and determine how they are similar or different to the United States system,” Miller said.
In addition to their coursework, the students have spent the weekends traveling around the city and learning about the history of conflict between the Catholics and Protestants and how that history lingers still today.
The students, who are all seniors, return on May 5, just a day before their education department graduation ceremony and two days before UT’s May commencement.
“It is extremely important to me to take back techniques, strategies and skills from Northern Ireland and be able to implement them into my own classroom,” said Cafiero. “My hopes are to become a stronger educator being that I have had such great experiences working with the Northern Ireland curriculum, as well as being immersed into the different cultures that my Cooperating Teacher, my students and the staff here at Stranmillis College have been sharing with me since day one.”
To read more about their experiences, follow their blogs.
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