By Claudia Rodriguez
As someone who is passionate about international education and experiential education, I knew I wanted a study abroad experience during my time in my graduate school. I am passionate about learning about other cultures and learning about the education system in other cultures so studying abroad was the perfect opportunity to do this in graduate school. I believe that there’s a lot to learn from other countries and their education systems. I decided to go with the NC State School of Education on the Finland and Estonia: Developing Collaborative Research Partnerships Maymester program. This program was perfect for me because I was interested in learning about the educational system of Finland and Estonia but I was also interested in developing research partnerships. This program was also perfect because it was a maymester so I returned in early June just in time to do an internship.
Our study abroad experience was very non-traditional in the sense that we were not in the classroom taking lectures every day. Our class time consisted of us visiting a school for the day, talking to students and teachers about the education system and culture in both countries, meeting with scholars, and many other educational and cultural experiences in Finland and Estonia. We still had traditional classroom assignments such as blog posts and a final paper, however, the experience was much more hands-on/experiential which allowed us to learn in a much more effective and impactful way about the education system and culture in Finland and Estonia. One of my favorite memories surrounding our cultural experiences was being able to experience typical Finnish culture with food, orienteering, and a Finnish sauna & lake experience. However, one of my favorite memories surrounding the educational experiences we had in Finland and Estonia was being able to spend a day in the local schools talking to teachers and students about their experience with the education system, politics, their goals, and more. We learned so much about how the educational system works in those countries that we brought back but we also realized that we are doing many great things in the United States and we should promote that.
I was lucky enough to find a study abroad program through NC State that fit my needs so I did not have to worry about credits transferring and I knew the professors and some of the other participants. However there are many programs around the United States that have study abroad programs that are open to students in other programs. I recommend anyone who’s interested in studying abroad during their graduate program to do their research and pick the best program for them. Talk to other students who have studied abroad during their master’s and doctoral program and see if it’s a good opportunity for you. I would also recommend being as open-minded as possible and welcome any new adventures, unexpected interactions, and try as many new things as possible. One never knows what will come of the unexpected.
Claudia Rodriguez is a second year Masters student at North Carolina State University. She also serves as HEA’s Vice President for Professional Development for the 2018-2019 school year.