Seven UWinnipeg Faculty of Education students recently returned from Germany after participating in an international practicum program* offered through the University. The selected participants, Heida Arnbjornsson, Sara Burnett, Sam Czuba, Maddie De Guzman, Rebecca Reis, Ali Sawatzky, and Alina Wilson, went through a very competitive process to ensure their success in the program.
Prior to heading on their German adventure, the students completed eight weeks of three-hour evening classes in speaking German and in the pedagogy of teaching English in a foreign setting.
“The students do team-building activities and study the culture and education systems in both Germany and Turkiye,” explained Dr. Laura Sokal, Professor, Germany International Practicum Co-ordinator. “The students communicated with their classroom teachers in Germany and pre-planned some of their lessons before they arrived to teach at Gymnasium Eringerfeld.”
Gymnasium Eringerfel is a multi-cultural school that has a large Turkish heritage student population. The pre-service teachers taught English as a foreign language class at the school and helped prepare the students for their national university qualifying exam called the “Abi”.
The UWinnipeg students were immersed in both the German and Turkish cultures. This included visits to the students’ family homes for cakes and tea. They also learned to perform a Turkish dance after instruction from a dance teacher from Turkey. The shared consensus on the experience was it was “a once in a life time opportunity that allowed them to grow as teachers”.
While in Eringerfeld the students also had the opportunity to explore Germany with day trips that included going to Berlin.
The Student Experience
“It is difficult to pick just one. I enjoyed so many things. Our weekend trips, Berlin was my favourite, the teas with people from the community and school, and the time I spent running/walking in the forest.” ~ Heida Arnbjornsson
“It is the most humbling experience. You are constantly surrounded by the kindest and most thoughtful people and you will gain cultural perspective through this practicum more than any other. It can be challenging at times as each person can have a very different teaching experience from another however, the life experiences here are what make this practicum so meaningful.” ~ Sara Burnett
“It was one of the best experiences of my life. I not only learned so much about the profession I love, but about myself as well. Having the opportunity to live and work with colleagues who quickly became my friends was inspiring and educational. Also, the school, students, faculty, and community are the most accepting and caring people I have ever met. I was absolutely blown away by their kindness for others and will be reminded of that always once I return home. I would encourage any student if they were interested to apply!” ~ Sam Czuba
“It was such an eye-opening and heart-warming experience to be able to immerse myself in their culture. Building relationships and connections with these individuals was quite easy, but only because everyone was so open and positive. The Turkish tea times and the Turkish dancing are probably my most favourite experiences! It was an experience of a life time. This practicum has helped me solidify and strengthen my skills in a professional teaching manner, but also on a personal level as well. Teaching at this school has made me feel like I am a part of something so much bigger than myself. This was such a unique experience that has actually changed me in so many positive ways. I have never felt more overwhelmed with emotion. It is something you have to experience for yourself. ~ Maddie De Guzman
“I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to do this practicum. I feel like I have grown a lot as a person and a teacher. I am more flexible and independent, thanks to this trip. Thank you for the great experiences! ~ Rebecca Reis
“Overall this trip exceeded my expectations. I was challenged and felt like I grew so much as a teacher and a person. I enjoyed every aspect of my time here, from learning about and being immersed in Turkish culture and exploring Germany. I loved the friendships that formed during this time and was truly inspired by how our “family” interacted, respected and valued each other.” ~ Ali Sawatzky
“I am someone who loves to learn, and I knew that an international practicum would help foster skills I think are very important for teachers to have, including flexibility, cooperation, and cross-cultural awareness. What I didn’t anticipate was just how rewarding this practicum would be in all those areas, and in my growth as a teacher. I am so grateful for this once in a life time opportunity to teach at Gymnasium Eringerfeld, and to work with such fantastic colleagues. ~ Alina Wilson.
*The Faculty of Education also offers foreign practica in Thailand, Greece, the Philippines, and China.