For senior Kiera Wilson, college has been a series of firsts. A first-generation college student, Wilson had never been a member of a team before coming to Ottawa University. She had never boarded an airplane. She had never traveled abroad. But all of that has changed for Wilson, who is from St. Louis.
When Wilson graduates, she will be able to say that she was the first member
of her family to attend and graduate college; that she was a scholarship-receiving member of the Ottawa University forensics team; that she boarded her first airplane; and that she took her first trip abroad to teach English in Japan.
“When I went to Japan, I had an amazing experience,” says Wilson. “There were a few hurdles when I
first started my journey. For the first time in my life I was traveling outside of the country. For the first time in my life I was getting on an airplane, and for the first time I was doing it all alone.”
Wilson earned the 2012 Fujiwara Scholarship, which allowed her to spend two weeks in Tokyo, Japan, during the summer. There, she helped her host family teach English at private and public schools.
“Nothing was more fulfilling and satisfying for me than the time I spent teaching English at both a private and public elementary school,” says Wilson. “The students were really curious about me, which spurred them to take more risks trying to speak in English.”
An education major, Wilson’s experience in Japan inspired her to go one step further – she wants to complete all or a portion of her student teaching in Japan. “Having the experience to work with students different from those I normally work with was motivating, encouraging and exciting,” says Wilson. “Taking so much from these opportunities changed my life, which is why I want to go back to Japan.”
Dr. Amy Hogan, dean of the School of Education, says the two have sent all of the applications and begun the documentation process that would permit Wilson to take part in such a studentteaching opportunity. Teaching and studying abroad is something that Hogan says she encourages teacher-licensure candidates to pursue because of the cultural experience it provides.
“I think any time a candidate is able to go and live somewhere different, it is extremely beneficial because it allows them to become more receptive of other cultures,” says Hogan.
Hogan says faculty members of the School of Education continue to seek opportunities for students to teach abroad or in different types of communities, including suburban, urban and inner city schools. “We are looking at vastly different types of experiences for our students,” says Hogan. “We want them to spend more time abroad and in environments that they are not used to because the students they teach in the future may not all be from the same culture or backgrounds.”
That is something that Wilson says she definitely kept in mind while in Japan. “I’ve had some very inspiring teachers who have had a major influence in my life,” she says. “I want to be able to give students the same in return and make a difference, which is why I want to be a teacher.”
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