During the hot Pennsylvania summer, Millersville University students are fondly remembering their Christmas Day departure to Sweden. A group of teacher candidates departed the U.S. to commence the first Marauders Abroad Program since the start of the pandemic. The students were participating in a capstone practicum to complete their Integrated STEM Education Methods minor in Stockholm, Sweden. The students arrived in northern Europe at the peak of the Omicron variant wave. Education professor Dr. Jason Petula coordinated the trip and was impressed by the students’ hard work, saying, “Despite the challenges of teaching during a pandemic, the group of Millersville University students displayed remarkable professionalism, along with other university EPPIC values.”
One participant, Marina Schrap, taught 5th grade math and science abroad. During the trip, Schrap took on all the responsibilities of being a classroom teacher including answering questions and lesson planning. She encourages other students to study abroad to gain more experience about life, culture and being independent. “Teaching in Sweden was an awesome experience. Something different I learned is that students in Sweden stay in the same classroom throughout the day and the teachers are the ones who switch from classroom to classroom. In addition, students get 10-minute breaks between their classes. During these breaks, students can play cards, work on homework or assignments or talk to a teacher if they are free,” says Schrap. While observing the cultural differences between American and Swedish schools, the student teachers on this trip taught their classes in English.
Petula is responsible for preparing the student teachers for their trip, as well as guiding them around throughout Sweden. Prior to leaving for Sweden, Petula accompanied the group to trips in Lancaster, Philadelphia and even an IKEA store for team building. Group excursions continued in Sweden, where students had the opportunity to see a New Year’s fireworks display and visit different museum exhibitions dedicated to Vikings and ABBA. Petula’s primary focus was to observe and report on the student’s work in classrooms. Petula points out that programs like this one offer students entirely new experiences, saying “For some students, this was their first-ever time teaching in a real classroom due to the pandemic. Other students were hesitant about teaching in Sweden because they had never been or taught outside of the country before. This Marauders Abroad Program helps to alleviate that.”
Another benefit of exposing students to teaching abroad is the job opportunities that can open for them in other countries. For example, Paige Wenger, a 2020 graduate with a major in middle-level education, currently teaches science in one of Millersville’s Swedish partner schools. Wenger decided to teach abroad for a few reasons. “First, I felt like their schooling system had opportunities and programs that would help me become a better teacher. For example, they have a very strong focus on social-emotional behavior in students. I felt like the transition to Sweden was going to be the easiest. The school helps new teachers get a visa, set up a bank account, and the process of getting a personal number (equivalent to social security card). We are also provided a free, high-quality lunch that we eat with the students. That has been something that I really enjoy because I get to have a nice meal and connect more with the students I teach,” says Wenger. Wenger will continue to teach in Sweden until August of 2023, when they will either decide to stay or return to the U.S.
To learn more about the study abroad programs offered at Millersville, visit: https://international.millersville.edu/