Senior Kirsten Schneider, a PackTeach student majoring in education and history, was awarded the Edmund J. & Virginia H. Cain Scholarship. She was able to use the scholarship to help pay for expenses while interning abroad in Nieuwegein in the Netherlands.
"This scholarship was hugely important to me," Kirsten Schneider said. "I won't lie; studying abroad is expensive. This scholarship has allowed me to pursue this experience with financial security."
Schneider is part of the College of Education & Human Development's Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) program. COST is a national collaboration that offers U.S. teacher education students the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to student teach overseas.
"After years working with overseas interns, I know they come back stronger because they have tested themselves," Jennifer Mahon, associate professor of sociocultural education, said. "They have a different perspective on the world, especially about living and working successfully with people who seem very different. I have to imagine the Cains understood that when they created this scholarship."
The program had that positive effect on Schneider.
"It was eye-opening to see how school works in another country," Schneider said. "It was also a great opportunity to work with ELL (English Language Learner) students. I was working with a bilingual program where students were learning all in English."
Schneider decided to go into teaching because she had an eighth-grade English teacher who inspired her. She chose to focus on history because she has always enjoyed studying humans of the past and the stories they have left behind.
Schneider is a Reno local, and in her free time, she enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and fostering kittens. She also has always loved to travel. Schneider first learned about the COST program in one of her education classes.
“It sounded like an interesting opportunity," Schneider said. "I figured what's the worst that could happen. I might as well go for it. There wasn't too much of a language barrier as 95% of people there speak English."
During one of her last days in the Netherlands, She and her lead teacher hosted an exchange class from Spain. "One of the activities we had planned was canoeing on the old moat around the city," Schneider said. "The students were so mad that the teachers got to take a motorboat instead of a canoe."
The College of Education and Human Development is one of 16 select U.S. institutions offering the COST program. With partnering schools in approximately 16 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia/Oceania and Latin America, the COST program provides an incredibly enriching experience for students looking to gain cross-cultural experience and bring an international perspective back to their classroom in the U.S.
"We are extremely lucky to be one of the few institutions in the country that have been invited to join COST, and I am so thankful we can offer this opportunity to our students," Mahon, said. "For 50 years, COST has been sending interns abroad. There is just no other program like it."
All graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in teacher education programs requiring a student teaching internship with a 3.0 GPA are eligible to apply. Available countries vary from semester to semester and can depend on student content areas. Interns do not have to speak another language, as all countries offer placements in schools where English is the language of instruction.
"Dr. Jenny Mahon has been instrumental in the success of this experience from me," Schneider said. "I would not have been able to do this without her. Also, Joseph Garton has been very accommodating that my student teaching looks very different from everyone else."
"Kirsten is amazing," Mahon said. "She took it upon herself, by herself, to go learn about the world. Student teaching is stressful regardless, but to travel overseas alone to a country where you don't speak the language or know the culture? That takes courage.
"Kirsten will be a gift to students and the lucky school that gets her. We can make students aware of other countries, but their futures require a skill set to work across cultures. Kirsten can show them that. And with her curiosity, I imagine her students will never be bored!"
"For students interested in studying through COST, I would say that it is worth it," Schneider said. "It is an amazing experience, and it will teach you things about yourself that you maybe never knew or had never thought about."