Madeline Sabella

Major: Elementary Education
Class: Senior
Timeframe: Fall 2022
Program: New Zealand
Destination: New Zealand

Overall Experience

This was the best experience I have ever had! Being able to student teach in New Zealand was the best way to experience the “kiwi” life. The people, the culture, and the land were better than anything I could have expected. I was able to not only learn a lot about teaching but also about myself. I was able to connect with the town I was living in, the staff and students at the school, as well as the culture in New Zealand. This experience is something that I am going to treasure for the rest of my life. I will forever be grateful for the international student teaching experience!

Learning experience

New Zealand was amazing in every way, but there were some things that I had to learn. One experience that I learned was how to navigate being a foreigner in a very close-knit community. Even though New Zealand is an English-speaking country, there are many words and phrases that are unique to New Zealand. Sometimes I needed to ask someone for clarification because I was unsure what they meant or the word was uncommon to me. This was a little uncomfortable at times, but it allowed me to understand a small portation of what people who are not native English speakers face in the United States. I also worked in a Year 1 classroom where all the students were six years old. I had to adapt to using language they were familiar with as well as learn how to explain common phrases that we use in the United States, like saying that we call it “trash” instead of “rubbish”. It taught me as an educator how to work through differences in language as well as learn some new phrases.

Memorable experience

After spending two months in New Zealand, I have had plenty of memorable experiences. One of my favorite experiences was at one of the whole school assemblies. Every other Friday the whole school meets to discuss upcoming events, play games, and recognition for excellent students. At this specific assembly, the whole school was learning a new song in the Maori language. The Maori language is the language of the native people of New Zealand and is integrated into their education. A teacher played the guitar while teaching all the students the words. It was such a cool experience to listen to and learn the song along with the students in the school. I will never forget the energy in the assembly hall and how they sang with passion.

What did you not expect?

Something that I did not expect during my study abroad experience was how much it would make an impact on me. I have never traveled that far, by myself before. I had to figure out navigating airports I have never been to, learn the conversions of money and temperature, and how to live in a country other than the United States. Getting to experience another culture and country was an amazing learning experience and has opened my eyes to other possibilities I did not consider. One of those is teaching in another country. While at Iowa State, teaching and moving to another country seemed like something impossible that would take years to accomplish. However, being able to complete part of my student teaching in New Zealand, gave me the confidence and passion to look into teaching around the world!

What advice would you give?

In New Zealand, a lot of the teachers often would tell students who were trying something new to “give it a go”. My advice would be to just give it a go! You will learn so much about a country, its people, history, and yourself. Being able to teach students in another country is so rewarding and eye-opening, but it can also be difficult. There will be things that you will not know or mess up on or that seem way different than what you are used to. However, if you allow yourself to just try and understand that this is a learning experience, you will have a more fulfilling time. So when in doubt, just give it a go!

How has this experience impacted your life?

Student teaching in New Zealand has greatly impacted my life. I was able to experience a whole new country with a few Iowa State students. I was also able to make connections all the way on the other side of the world! Working with my cooperating teacher and the students ignited my passion even more to become an educator. I was able to teach my students about different animals in the United States and in return, they taught me about native animals in New Zealand. Being able to teach students in New Zealand, and allowing them to teach me their culture was something that will hold a special place in my heart.

How did you learn about this experience?

I first learned about this experience during my visit to Iowa State in high school. I always knew studying abroad was something I would love to do, but I was unsure how I would do it with my major. Some of the advisors told me about all the opportunities to complete my student teaching abroad during that visit. I was able to learn more about this program throughout my time at Iowa State like during the student teaching abroad fair and talking with professors.

International Connections