The Educator Feature Story
Pair of recent grads enjoys COST experience abroad
By Tony Meale
Recent Patton College of Education graduates Michelle Goble and Paige Kerrigan enjoyed a life-changing experience via the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) program in 2013. Goble and Kerrigan, who both majored in Integrated Language Arts, lived in Koln, Germany, from late-August through December and taught English to German students ranging in age from fifth to 11th grade.
“Going abroad and leaving friends and family isn’t always the easiest decision to make, but this decision pushed me to want to see what the world has to offer and to go out and experience all that I can,” said Goble. “This became so much more than another teaching experience. It grew to shape my life and pushed me to enjoy the little things in life and appreciate everything that is offered.”
The COST program affords teacher candidates the unique opportunity to live and student-teach abroad for an entire semester. Students are placed in local English-speaking classrooms and get to know the culture and educational system of the host country. Ohio University is one of 15 colleges and universities in the United States participating in the program, which offers experiences in more than a dozen countries.
“COST is a wonderful student-teaching program that provides a truly unique global opportunity for professional and personal growth by going out of the country and experiencing a different culture,” said Dr. Frans Doppen, chair of the Department of Teacher Education. “It is an experience they will then be able to share with their future students.”
Kerrigan, who had previously visited Europe, Asia, and South America, chose Germany because of its central location in the EU, which allowed for prime travel opportunities. She did not speak German – which her fellow teachers loved, as it forced native students to practice their English.
“It wasn’t difficult with the older students, but for the fifth graders it was difficult because it was their first time ever learning English,” said Kerrigan, who also coached boys high school basketball. “They were convinced I knew German and would always speak to me in German.”
Goble, like Kerrigan, had plenty of prior experience abroad but became interested in Germany as a high school junior when her family hosted a transfer student from Berlin. Goble considered student-teaching in the United States, but the COST program was simply too good to pass up.
“It is rare to find an opportunity to live abroad and work and teach with kids,” said Goble, who also coached a sixth-grade swimming team. “It made me more independent and confident in working with kids and being on my own."
Goble and Kerrigan did not take coursework while in Germany but wrote reflections about their experience, among various internship requirements. They also took a global-experience class and student-taught for two weeks prior to going abroad.
“What surprised me was how at home I felt as soon as I got there,” said Kerrigan. “It was not as intimidating as I thought it would be. Germany is a very modern culture that also keeps a strong hold on tradition.”
Goble and Kerrigan traveled quite a bit while in Europe, making trips to Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Italy, Prague, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Vienna, among other countries.
“Although we may speak difference languages, practice different religions, or wear different clothes,” said Goble, “this experience really showed me that deep down we are not that different at all.”
It also inspired both women after graduating last December. Kerrigan, who wants to work in youth development programs, is getting a Master’s in Science and Recreation from the School of Public Health at Indiana University and is open to living and working abroad.
“(The COST) program truly made me who I am today because it forced me out of my comfort zone,” said Kerrigan. “I miss it and think about it every day.”
Goble, meanwhile, is teaching English in Japan and plans to be there for at least a year.
“I didn’t want to be just one person in a crowd,” Goble said of her COST experience. “I wanted to stand out and create a memory and a life-changing experience. Everyone I met while I was abroad impacted my life in some way or another and helped make the trip an amazing experience – one I will never forget.”