AIFS Study Abroad Blog

How I Developed a New Love for My Major While Abroad

Hello, my name is Amie and I am majoring in Elementary Education. There are two instances when I can say I fell in love with my field of study. Once in an elementary school in Boston, Massachusetts and once in a primary school in Rome, Italy. Both allowed me to have a deeper understanding of my life after college and to reflect on myself as a future educator. I am here to share with you how I developed a new love for my major during my time abroad.

It all started when I took the plunge and decided to study abroad in Rome, Italy during the Spring of 2018. I packed my bags and hopped on a plane as my fellow classmates were diving into their second semester of Sophomore year on campus. As many of you may know, the second semester of Sophomore year is when students begin to really take a deep look into their majors and begin to discover what it’s like within that field of study. I strived to experience those things with my major, but instead of in a classroom I moved 4,089 miles away to discover them.

During my first week of classes abroad, I was given the option to participate in a volunteer program that Richmond in Rome (my study center) offered. When seeing that I could teach English in a local primary school called Regina Margherita, I immediately signed up. Within a week, I was put in a class of 20 to 30 third graders who did not speak English — and that is when the adventure began.

Here are three specific instances where I discovered a new love for my major during my time at Regina Margherita in Rome:

1. Communication and Dual-Learning

The first instance occurred during my first week. Right away I realized how much of challenge the language barrier would be. The students and teacher within the third-grade classroom spoke minimal English and I spoke minimal Italian. I knew that I was going to have to find unique ways to teach the students and communicate with the teacher. There are three things that became my best friend during that week: 1) Google translate, 2) my hands, and 3) pictures.

With a little bit of practice, the class and I began to create our own language by using these things. Although it was challenging, lessons became kind of like games of charades. The students and I found enjoyment within the vocabulary lessons. They would correct me on my Italian words and I would correct them on their English. I developed a new love of education during this time, because it showed me that you can learn just as much from your students as your students learn from you. You are both constant learners within a classroom.

2. Acceptance

The second instance occurred during the middle of my experience at Regina Margherita. One morning, I was running late because of the buses and I was rushing to get to the classroom. As I was walking up the stairs, I heard little footsteps running up behind me. I looked beside me and one of the students in my class stopped and faced me on the stairs. I waved and then she proceeded to say, “Good morning, Amie.” After finishing her sentence, she ran up the stairs past me. She took time out of her day to face me and speak English. English: a language not spoken in her daily life or at home. English: a new, challenging subject for her. Coming to a new country, where everyone spoke a different language than I did, I realized how hard it was to do something like this. I developed a new love for education because at this point I realized how accepting young children are. They want to learn and discover new things. They are like sponges that soak up information.

3. Connections

The third instance occurred on my last day at Regina Margherita; the sad day that I had to say goodbye to the students. After weeks of working with them in English, I decided to say my goodbyes in Italian. I wanted them to know how much they helped me grow as an Italian speaker. After many hugs and pictures, they asked me when I was coming back to Italy. I said that I did not know, but hopefully I would one day. I developed a new love of education when I realized the power that it could have with connections. During those few minutes of goodbyes I realized that I had created a connection with a group of students who I never thought I could relate too — students who had a different language, culture, and background. I will forever be thankful for the chunk of their lives that they allowed me to be a part of.

This experience has empowered me to teach internationally one day. I now have a new goal for my future plans. This experience allowed me to have a deeper understanding of life after college and to reflect on myself as a future educator. I was able to develop a new love for my major, during my time abroad. Thank you, Richmond in Rome and Regina Margherita Primary School. I can now say that I found a new love for my major in an unexpected place, 4,089 miles away.

This post was contributed by Alumni Ambassador, Amie Knowles, who spent a semester studying and volunteering abroad with AIFS in Rome, Italy.

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