Student teaching abroad program is an eye-opening experience for WSU Tri-Cities student

By Lacey Desserault

As a soon-to-be elementary school teacher, Washington State University Tri-Cities student Jackie Gama knew she wanted to integrate her culture with her teaching experience. When she was presented with an opportunity to complete her student teaching requirement abroad, she knew she could accomplish just that.

Gama is student teaching English as a second language at an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Yucatan, Mexico, where all students are required to learn how to speak, read, and write in both Spanish and English. She first learned about student teaching abroad programs from her professor, Eric Johnson.  He is one of the coordinators of the program and assisted her in arranging the three-month long experience in Mexico.

Jackie Gama, WSU Tri-Cities elementary education student

“One reason I was interested in student teaching abroad was to get to know my culture better,” said Gama. “I am Mexican American, with my father being from Mexico, and I have not been to Mexico in a little over a decade. I wanted to be immersed in Mexican culture and improve my Spanish.”

While Gama is in Yucatan, she is simultaneously teaching elementary level classes and taking university courses. On the weekends she has the flexibility to explore the region and learn more about the community where she is living, allowing her to become fully immersed in the experience.

“This program has influenced me to continue conducting research on how I am able to successfully teach concepts in a new language to multilingual learners,” she said. “It has also inspired my personal goals to not be limited to what I am comfortable with or what is familiar to me. It has shown me to be a risk-taker and to take opportunities that may be out of my comfort zone, as those are the experiences that I am going to learn best from. This is my first time being away from my family on my own, and it was nerve-wracking in the beginning. But now that I am here and am completing my internship experience, I would without a doubt do it again.”

Gama is in her final year of studying elementary education at WSU Tri-Cities. She will graduate with endorsements in bilingual education and English Language Learners (ELL). “I am a first-generation student, and this experience has been eye-opening for me in realizing the opportunities that are out there. I am thankful for the support that I have had not only from my family but also from my advisor and the community that I am living with in Yucatan.”

When asked what advice she has for fellow or future students Gama said study abroad internships are an amazing opportunity. “I say take the chance if you are given the opportunity.”