Megan received her Bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University in Communications. As a junior at NCSU, she participated in the Semester at Sea study abroad program and visited 10 countries all over the world. Upon graduation, Megan went on to pursue a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate in Prague, Czech Republic. She taught English in Prague and also backpacked around Europe for several months. She returned to the U.S. and continued to pursue her passion of working with English language learners and international exchange programs. In addition to teaching ESL at Wake Tech Community College, her experience includes directing ESL summer camps and coordinating summer language and culture immersion programs for high school exchange students.
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Where do you lead a program?
I coordinate the Student Teaching Abroad programs through the College of Education. Curitiba, Brazil is the location that I will be leading regularly. I also just led a group of students to Beijing, China this semester. By the Summer 2012 semester, we will have four program locations; Brazil, China, England, and Russia.
How long have you run your study abroad program?
I've run the program from the beginning, starting with the first group of students in the Spring 2011 semester. It's a very new program, but is also growing very fast!
What makes your study abroad program unique?
Student Teaching Abroad is a specific program for students studying to becoming K-12 teachers in North Carolina. Future teachers can complete part of their internship (student teaching) semester in North Carolina, and then they can travel to another country for the final three to six weeks of the semester, depending on the location. The program gives students a really deep comparative insight into an education system in another country. Each location has its own personality, but all of them allow NC State students to gain experience teaching in another country and the opportunity to build professional relationships with educators all over the world.
What stands out as your favorite memory from the study abroad programs that you have directed?
My favorite memory from the Student Teaching Abroad program was taking the group of 11 students to the Atlantic Rain Forest in southern Brazil for three days. For many of the students, it was an entirely new experience. They learned so much about the environment in Brazil, had the opportunity to hear camp-fire stories from indigenous people, explore the wildlife, plants, and waterfalls around an ecological reserve, and really see another side of Brazil. After visiting schools in a large city the whole time, it was a much needed reflective time where they could de-brief and process the whole experience so far. Best of all - a Brazilian television channel followed us the whole time to shoot a documentary about the natural reserve where we stayed. We were able to have a professional and fun documentation of the once in a lifetime experience!
If you could give prospective students one piece of advice about study abroad, what would it be?
Choosing just one piece of advice for prospective students is difficult, but I would have so say be prepared for anything! International travel always brings surprises and students should be flexible and ready to enjoy and engage in the experience, no matter what happens.
What are you looking for from the students who apply to your program?
We are looking for teacher education students who are eligible to student teach and have a passion for diversity and becoming a global educator. Candidates must be willing to share their experiences abroad with classrooms and the community in North Carolina. Most of all, prospective students should be comfortable with ambiguity, and motivated to learn and grow in an education system abroad.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Faculty Director?
For me, the most rewarding aspect is seeing students overcome culture shock and then adjusting to a new way of thinking and a new way of life. It's so wonderful to see students trying things for the very first time, like eating new foods and figuring out the transportation system. They struggle at first, but by the end of their time abroad, they are pros. I have seen students come home completely changed and with new perspectives that ultimately make them more open-minded, confident, and globally proficient educators. Specifically in the teaching field, the participants in this program are able to empathize with the English Language Learners in their classrooms since they have walked in their shoes and been completely out of their comfort zones for the duration of the program.
If you could give new Faculty Directors of study abroad programs one piece of advice about leading a program, what would it be?
I would tell new Faculty Directors to make communication a priority. This role involves a variety of people, including your department, the Study Abroad Office, students, and of course partners or contacts in the destination country. It's really important to communicate clearly and regularly with all of them so that everyone is on the same page. Without excellent communication, I think it would be difficult to run a successful program.
What marketing tips would you suggest to your fellow Faculty Directors to encourage more NC State students to study abroad?
The two marketing strategies that have been the most effective for the Student Teaching Abroad programs are holding information sessions and going into classrooms to talk to students. Direct, personal contact seems to be the most effective thing to do. When I can talk to a group of students about the program and all of the exciting places they can go, it seems to inspire more action to apply than fliers or e-mails do.
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