Making a Difference through International Education

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When I decided to pursue a degree in education, I never imagined I would end up living and teaching in Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mongolia, or China. During my career as an international educator, I have come to value the experiences that living and working overseas afford. I’ve also witnessed firsthand the impact that international education has on the students at the schools where I’ve worked. In my experience, students at international schools are more apt to celebrate diversity, be open-minded, and have a willingness to understand the perspectives of others – all traits that are extremely beneficial in an ever-growing global world, and ones whose value far transcends the walls of a school. I believe this impact of international education has something to do with the fact that the students and educators come from all over the world, bringing with them a wealth of diverse experiences, traditions, and stories to create a place where differences are as valued as similarities. This exposure to cultural difference, unique perspectives, etc, challenges students’ existing attitudes and promotes open-mindedness and positive personal growth. Much is gained when students are able to meet new people, see new places, and experience cultures different from their own. The learning curve is steep and the results are worthwhile.

Whether it be in the international school setting or not, one way educators can help extend this type of learning to students is by enabling them to take part in student travel/study programs. These programs, which usually take place abroad, allow students unique opportunities to travel to regions of their interest, meet, interact, and collaborate with individuals from around the world, and study topics such as history, fashion, and culinary arts. These experiences are as exciting and unique for the students as they are memorable. The only drawback is that, because of program and staff costs, and the fact that these programs are usually held internationally, the expense is often more than a typical family can afford. If you’re an educator or a mentor to students, that’s where you can make a difference. I know firsthand that it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to find organizations in the community willing to offer sponsorship that will support students with opportunities like this. And if you really want to do something meaningful for a student, you can become a sponsor yourself.

Last summer, I was able to send one of my top students on a summer program abroad. This particular student is from Mongolia and was probably the most ambitious student I’ve worked with in my career. She was very involved in the life of the school as well as the community. And she was constantly initiating actions to help others, expose injustices in society, and do community service work. She was one who I believed, given the right support, would go on to make a great difference in Mongolian society and beyond. More than anything, supporting this student was about helping her be the best she can be. As she was entering 11th grade at the time and would soon be applying to colleges and universities, we decided to find her a program that offered both a travel component and SAT preparation. We chose Abbey Road Programs after doing a lot of research on summer study/travel abroad programs. My student attended their College Prep program in Boston. During this time she received SAT instruction each weekday, visited college campuses, and experienced the sights and sounds of the city. It was her first time in the USA and she was very grateful for the opportunity to experience America, meet new people, and do SAT practice with the support of highly trained tutors. There were several characteristics that set Abbey Road summer programs apart from the others. First and foremost are the amazing programs and destinations they offer. Also important for us was that their programs featured a balance of travel and cultural opportunities as well as times devoted to study. And what we appreciated most about Abbey Road was their willingness to adjust programs to the needs of my student. My student was very happy with the program and even comments that she wants to apply to colleges in the Boston area. Perhaps the biggest vote of confidence that I can give Abbey Road is the fact that, with the help of more sponsors, I’m once again working to send a student to one of their other programs (in Florence, Italy) this coming summer.

As an educator, I didn’t choose a career in education for the money or for an easy job. Rather it was to make a difference in the lives of the students I see each day. I think most educators can agree to this. But no matter if you’re an educator or not, I think we all want to make a difference in the world. Often the most meaningful differences happen one person at a time. If you’d like to help make a positive impact on the life of a student, try supporting them to attend programs like the ones from Abbey Road.

 

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