While my career goals are not teaching oriented, nor had I ever taught before, on the CAES Youth Engagement in Agriculture Scotland study abroad trip I had the opportunity to teach students at Troqueer Primary School, Dumfries Academy, and Laurieknowe Primary School about forensics. Prior to departure for this trip, our group was assigned the area of topical sciences to teach. While we brainstormed many ideas, we eventually landed on forensics as it is a highly useful science that can be applied in many areas of life. In our lesson plan we included forensic science topics and activities related to the techniques of chromatography, fingerprinting, and DNA sequencing. One example of how we relayed our lesson plan back to agricultural practices was by explaining how the technique of chromatography can be used to identify components in our food and test products for their nutritional value.
When arriving at our first school to teach, Troqueer Primary School, I was pleasantly surprised by how excited the kids were to see us. We were brought into the school and were invited to sit in to one of their weekly assemblies where students and teachers were awarded for their hard work and kindness to others. I found this interesting as in the United States students in elementary and middle school are hardly awarded and recognized for their characteristics and diligence, but rather for their academic accomplishments. Experiencing this allowed me to reflect on how I view myself and others, as I personally place a lot of self worth in academic achievement. Following this we were given a tour around the school before giving our first lesson. As we walked around I observed how different the classroom styles were as well as the freedom the students were given to walk around when needed in the halls by themselves. The level of independence from a young age in Scotland was highly different from the United States.
As the week continued and we began to teach at the other primary school as well as the secondary school, I began to learn so much about their culture from the students we interacted with. One main takeaway I learned about their culture was the reduced urgency of time in their society. In the United States, much of society habitually places certain achievements and stepping stones in life on a strict timeline. Much of society in the United States has a go, go, go mindset where certain things have to be done at a certain time in our lives. However, after speaking with students in Scotland and viewing how things were run, I was able to see that in their culture there is not as much of a set timeline and a certain path in life that needs to be taken. After observing this, I was able to reflect on my own life in which I feel I am very much on a certain timeline where certain goals need to be completed. Following this experience, I am attempting to have a less set deadline approach to life and I am even considering taking a gap year/semester before applying to dental school to travel and gain more experience.
Although the objective of this study abroad was for us to teach the students in Scotland, the real outcome of this experience for me was what I was able to learn from the students and people I interacted with in Scotland. Through interactions, I was able to learn so much about their culture and able to reflect on my own perspectives of things in life. If you are hesitant about doing this study abroad due to lack of teaching experience and/or your career goals not being teaching oriented, don’t let those hesitations stop you from applying and going. One of my favorite parts of this experience was getting to teach at the schools and getting to know some of the students during their breaks, even though I am not an education major. You may learn more about yourself than you think through this experience and it may open the doors to certain career opportunities you had not considered before.