Hometown: Minnesota, U.S
School: Minnesota State University
Major: Elementary Education
Tell me a little bit about your internship experience in Costa Rica
Overall, it was a really great experience. We worked in a private school which is based on a U.S curriculum so it was familiar. The students here know at least 2 languages, but some of them know 3, 4, or 5 languages. Definitely English and Spanish, but others also know French, some Mandarin Chinese, another knows Polish. The faculty and the principal were all really warm and inviting and made me feel so comfortable.
Was this your first time interning?
Well, we’re required to do a service learning program in the states before our international internship so I spent 10 weeks working in a public school in Minnesota with 3rd graders. I ended up teaching the last 2 weeks completely on my own.
Did you notice any major differences between the students at each location?
You always have to be flexible with your classroom management techniques–Every class, and every student, is different so it’s a matter of trial and error. The main difference I noticed is that the students are sort of used to blurting out answers, or getting up from their seats as they wanted, whereas my students in Minnesota were expected to raise their hands and ask for permission to get up–things like that. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of culture or just this class.
You got a chance to visit a public school, right?
Yes. We visited 3 public schools actually. One was a high school and the others were elementary. Those students actually seemed like they were more behaved. It was interesting also to see the differences between the public education system in Costa Rica compared to back home. I wasn’t there for long, but one thing that caught my attention was that the teachers at the public schools here had to pay to make copies. I think we can all agree that teachers in the U.S need more support, but little things like that…I don’t know. It just makes me feel more grateful.
Is there a difference in the student-teacher relationships?
The students and teachers here are really sweet with one another. They’re definitely more affectionate. The teachers call the students by pet names like “mija” or “mijo” and give lots of hugs and kisses. I’m sure it’s the culture, but being able to be affectionate with the students, I think, really helps to foster a community and a sense of home. In the U.S there’s a resistance to show so much affection toward a student because you don’t want to cross that professional boundary, but I think there are always ways to show you care about them like you would your own family member without the physical contact.
I heard you also rode the school bus with the students. What was that like?
Yeah! The teachers and students all ride the school bus together. It’s really cool. For the most part the students were pretty quiet, listening to their headphones. But I noticed that the bus driver knew all the students by name and had a really good relationship with all of them. I thought that was nice to see how involved the bus driver was. It shows that everyone plays an important role.
Did the internship meet your expectations?
I expected to work in a school which followed a U.S based curriculum, and that’s exactly what I got. So, yes. But the main reason I chose the internship in Costa Rica is because I minored in Spanish so I specifically chose this internship to practice and continue learning. Being in Costa Rica, and living with a local family allowed me to really immerse myself in the culture.
What was your favorite thing about interning with this school?
My favorite thing about this school is that it’s bilingual. The kids here start learning a second language at a really young age and I feel that the U.S doesn’t place value on language the way it should. It was really cool to hear the kids switch from Spanish to English at any moment.
What’s the next step for you?
Well, I hope to find a position teaching in a district where I would be able to continue using my Spanish. It’s really important for me to work with a diverse population of students because I think it’s an important asset in the classroom. Student diversity should be valued, and it’s important that they understand and appreciate their differences because that’s how we learn and grow.
Maximo Nivel wishes Courtney the best of luck on her future endeavours. Pura Vida!