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What have you done since graduating and where are you now?
While at MSU, I completed two degrees, one in the RCAH, and one in Elementary Education. After graduating from MSU, I fulfilled my requirements from the College of Education by spending the entire next year student teaching in a third grade classroom in East Lansing Public Schools. I also started my Masters Degree in MSU’s Teaching and Curriculum program with a specialization in Language and Literacy and plan to complete the online program in the next few years. Now, I am currently a third grade teacher for Marshall Public Schools, just under an hour south of East Lansing. I love my students, coworkers, and new community so much! The combination of the College of Education and the RCAH helped me to get to where I am now!
How did RCAH prepare you for what you're doing now?
While university requirement-wise, the RCAH and the College of Education did not match up as nicely as I would have liked, I can’t imagine completing one program without the other (which is why I insisted on completing both). The RCAH prepared me for being an elementary teacher because I was able to explore my passion for education in a different light than the oftentimes very strict and research-based approach of the College of Education. I was able to critically examine and question the teaching practices or issues that we were talking about in my education classes or in the classrooms I volunteered in. During my senior year, I was able to do a Senior Thesis with Professor Anita Skeen that directly related to my work in elementary classrooms and encouraged me to reflect on my values and priorities as a teacher. During my time in the RCAH, I was able to take my interests and integrate them into my RCAH coursework, not only making my courses interesting, but also very pertinent to my future career.
What were your academic interests in RCAH?
Obviously, I chose the pathway of “Childhood and Society,” but honestly, I was interested in so many things in the RCAH! I love learning about languages and communication and wound up earning teaching endorsements in English and Spanish. I love learning about the world, whether it be history, cultures, geography, or anthropology. I have a passion for writing just about anything. I have been involved with music since I was 5, and spent 5 years in the Spartan Marching Band. Being that the RCAH was brand new when I signed up for it, I was really drawn to the College because it offered so many things that I was interested in and had a very personal and community-centered feel to it.
What were your favorite aspects of the RCAH experience?
There are too many to name! First and foremost are the faculty and staff. I was nervous coming to MSU because it’s a really big university and I thought I would just be a number. Not in the RCAH! I was able to get the small school feel I wanted (professors knowing my name) while still getting the benefits from a large university (study abroad program, #1-ranked Elementary Education program, and the Spartan Marching Band). I loved getting to know my professors professionally and personally. I know that even now after I’ve graduated, I can come to any of them for help or guidance, or just to have a great meal and catch up.
Did you ever take part in Study Abroad/Study Away at MSU?
Yes, I did! Before my freshman year at MSU, I went on a Freshman Seminar Abroad to Ireland. It was a great introduction to Study Abroad and helped get me ready for the type of work that would be expected from college classes.
After my sophomore year, I went on the RCAH Study Abroad program, Ethics and Ecotourism and Sustainable Development in Costa Rica. This program really helped me to become fluent in Spanish (I later went on to get a K-8 teaching certification in Spanish). Because of the flexibility of the RCAH, I also got to spend time in a local elementary school to see what education was like in Costa Rica.
After my senior year, but before my student teaching internship, I went on a College of Education Study Abroad program to South Africa called Cross-Cultural Teaching Abroad. For four of the six weeks during the program, I got to live with and work with a third grade teacher. The program really was eye-opening to me about different educational systems around the world. Some of the fun parts of the trip were shark cage diving with Great Whites and hiking down Table Mountain.
After my student teaching, but before my first year of “real” teaching, I was offered an amazing opportunity. In the fall, all of the interns received an email describing a too-good-to-be-true trip to New Zealand and Australia that coming summer that was sponsored by Oakland University and completely funded by a Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad grant. Not only would participants get to go to these two amazing countries, but the only out of pocket expenses would be for some food and souvenirs. I applied, of course, and wound up earning one of 12 spots on the program! We spent five weeks in the two countries learning about their educational systems, visiting with professors and policy makers, and seeing important cultural and historical sites. The highlight of the trip for me was staying with an educator and observing in their classroom and school at two different cities we visited. The tour of The Shire from LOTR wasn’t bad either!
If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved my time spent abroad. I learned so much about the world, different cultures, languages, geography, and about educational systems around the world. Study Abroad can be daunting because of the price tag that comes with it, but when you break it down, the tuition payment is exactly the same as if you were taking classes in East Lansing. For my South Africa trip, I raised enough money in scholarships to cover my airfare plus cover part of my program fee. Go and see the world!
What words of wisdom do you have for current RCAH students?
You’re only in college for a few years; so make sure to get involved with anything and everything that interests you. Go abroad! Find a program that matches your interests and degree requirements and go discover that there is so much more to life than what we experience day to day in the U.S. You’ll come back a different person, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be addicted to traveling!