Student Experiences Abroad

Faculty and administrators often turn first to student teaching abroad when considering international experiences for pre-service teachers. Colleges of education, however, have other international options to consider for their students.  

Study Abroad and Supplemental Experiences for Pre-Service Teachers

Trends toward short-term spring or summer experiences are attractive options for students in tightly scheduled programs such as teacher preparation, or for students for whom extended stays away from their home campuses are not possible. Clearly, it is not possible to fully appreciate the complexities of another culture during a three- or four-week visit.  Indeed, many have questioned whether a student can have more than superficial exposure through these kinds of experiences. However, short, carefully-planned programs may spark a desire for further cross-cultural learning, lay a foundation for longer experiences, provide basic language instruction, or establish relationships that continue upon return to the home campus.

Some colleges offer study abroad experiences to supplement the educational experiences of their students.  Wheelock College offers service-learning trips abroad, including a trip to Barbados entitled “Inclusionary Practice in the Eastern Caribbean.” The program is led by a faculty member in special education, and provides students experiences in local Eastern Caribbean schools. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers a short-term, one-credit course in Germany open only to undergraduate students in education.  Students in the Global Educators Cohort Program at Michigan State University travel to China for two weeks during their sophomore year for observation and small teaching component.

Students may also work with a third-party provider off campus to pursue international experiences.  Bridge, for example, offers several international study, volunteer, and internship experiences - many of which include intensive language study.  GlobaLinks Learning Abroad offers opportunities abroad specifically geared toward education majors.  Many students appreciate the flexibility and options these types of programs offer.

Educators Abroad (EA) offers several options for educators interested in gaining expereince abroad.  One option is a two- to three-week international practicum. Students spend time observing and assisting in a classroom in one of 12 countries. The practicum can replace introductory courses in education or initial teacher education requirements for time in domestic schools. EA also offers a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant program that is designed for students of any major, but offers valuable teaching experience through its four to ten week placements in numerous countries. Colleges of education may choose to partner with EA to provide these experience to students.  Information and resources - including syllabi, documents, and information for institutions interested in partnering with EA - are readily available on the organization's website.

Courses Abroad for Pre-Service Teachers

A few schools of education have arranged to teach education courses abroad specifically geared to pre-service teachers. At Michigan State University, the College of Education has partnered with the Office of Study Abroad to offer several courses geared toward education students or focused on educational topics. Most of the courses are offered over the summer, and include social foundations of education courses “Education, Society and Learning” in South Africa and “Learning, Technology and Culture in Europe” in the Netherlands.  The University of Maryland College Park offers summer and winter-term opportunities through its College of Education in several countries.

Oklahoma State University allows teacher education students to fulfill both elective and required courses abroad.  Courses in Costa Rica and France also emphasize intensive language study.  Early Childhood Education students or professionals can take advantage of a partnership between West Virginia University and Reggio Children and travel to Italy to study the Reggio Emilia method.

Semesters Abroad for Pre-Service Teachers

Some colleges of education also offer semester-long programs that allow students to fulfill major and certification requirements.  North Carolina Teaching Fellows at Elon University are required to participate in specially designed study programs in London or Costa Rica that include a seminar and practicum in public schools.  The exchange program between the University of North Carolina – Greensboro and Shanghai Normal University is open to any teacher education major and provides students experience in Chinese schools.  Some campuses also offer exchanges for students in specific majors.  For example, teacher education students specializing in Physical Education at Michigan State University may study for a semester at York St. John University in York, England.  


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