American teaching internships broaden perspectives
Teaching students can now travel on exchange to the United States for internships in American schools. Kristina Tengelin and Natalie Sezgin, on the verge of getting their degrees, were the first to try it out.
For five weeks they worked at a high school in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and taught with the help of mentor support.
“If it hadn’t been the US, I would have contacted the Swedish school in Berlin or Vienna. As a language teacher, it’s important to have knowledge both of the language and the culture; an internship abroad is simply extremely relevant,” says future high school teacher Tengelin (right), who is studying German and English.
Sezgin (left) is in her last term of studying to become a high school teacher with a focus on civics and religion. She believes she broadened her role as a teacher by choosing to undergo occupational training (an internship) abroad. During her years as a student teacher, she also had shorter internship stints in Sweden, but thinks that the US internship provided something out of the ordinary.
“Apart from practice in educating, we get insight into another school system, we see how our colleagues and students interact with each other in a different country, and we learn to deal with unfamiliar situations,” Sezgin says.
That student teachers travel abroad for their occupational training (VFU in Swedish) is nothing new, but it’s unusual.
“Among student teachers this culture of travelling doesn’t exist. Most want to work in Sweden; they see no real point in doing their internship abroad,” Tengelin says.
However both she and Sezgin are satisfied with their choice of international internships.
“You’re exposed to new situations abroad that in itself gives you more confidence and you gain some broad knowledge. In addition, I’ve formed contacts among the mentors and students that I can make use of as a teacher in Sweden – pen-friends, for example, and other exchanges between Swedish and American students,” Sezgin says.
Tengelin believes that the internship abroad made her more secure in her role as teacher because she exposed herself to great challenges.
“You get a lot more out of it than you expect. Apart from competence in your field and as a teacher, people should teach in a foreign language and understand another school system as well.
The new thing about US internships is that they take place as part of an organised exchange. Beginning this year, LiU will collaborate with several universities in Kentucky who, in turn, have had students on internships in elementary and high schools in Linköping.
The intern exchange is a pilot project that LiU wants to develop further. Similar exchanges are under way with universities in Japan and Canada.
“Swedish universities have a mandate from the government to increase their international perspective in teacher training. This is something we welcome; international experience opens up doors, providing students and teachers with perspectives on learning and other cultures,” says Lena Örnestrand, international coordinator.
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Last updated: 2013-05-07