Newswise — Travel does more than broaden the range of a person’s experiences. It also provides a new perspective from which to view the familiar.

That skill is especially valuable to education majors who are preparing for a teaching career. The School of Education at Buffalo State has developed international initiatives to provide students with the opportunity to travel to nine countries on five continents through the International Professional Development Schools consortium (IPDS).

Since January 2017, 32 education students have taken advantage of the program to travel, observe classrooms, and teach abroad. They have also kept blogs about their trips, reporting on recent experiences in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, and Zambia.

Annie, a senior early childhood education major who traveled to the Dominican Republic discovered that, while it’s important to acknowledge the effects of poverty, it’s “also important to remember that great things are happening.” Nailah, a future math teacher who initially struggled with the currency system during her visit to the DR, thinks that teaching students about different national currencies might be a useful and interesting way to engage students with math.

In Germany, students live and teach side-by-side with new teachers from Institute Nürtingen, part of Buffalo State’s professional development school consortium of partner schools. While trying to follow a class taught in German, Sarah, a junior exceptional education major, noted, “This opened up my mind to how English-language learners in America must feel…I want to find a way to keep ELL students involved and welcome in my classroom.”

Students who traveled to Chile had an opportunity to improve their Spanish as well as to participate in a variety of classrooms. Jameelat, a speech-language pathology major, was able to observe the work done by her peers in Colegio Amapolas, a school for children with special needs. She wrote that seeing the teamwork among general education teachers, special education teachers, and other professionals helped her understand the importance of “positive relationships in future professional settings.” Renee, a graduate student in the childhood and early childhood education program, spoke for many of the students when she wrote, “I’m excited! I’m going to a foreign country to become a more well-rounded educator and experience a totally different culture! It’s basically a dream come true.”

“Our program is distinctive because it’s less expensive than traditional study-abroad programs,” said Wendy Paterson, dean of the School of Education at Buffalo State. “Also, it benefits our partner schools and their students as well as our own students. Our partners in Chile, Zambia, and Germany have also come here, so even students who don’t travel can benefit from the IPDS program.”

Upcoming opportunities include travel to England and Rwanda. Almost to a person, participants report that the experience is life-changing, not only for its academic value, but for the confidence and personal growth they experience.