“A MIND THAT IS STRETCHED BY NEW EXPERIENCES, CAN NEVER GO BACK TO ITS OLD DIMENSIONS ”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
As I sit here, coffee in hand, overlooking the ocean, I can begin to reflect on what the past 137 days have taught me. Our time came to an end, our bags were packed and we said one final goodbye to our much beloved city of Innsbruck.
I feel it is physically impossible to put the past four and a half months into one blog, as I simply would not do the experience justice! Since arriving home, the question “well, how was Austria?” leaves me feeling a little overwhelmed and not really sure where to start. I do know three things for sure; I have grown as a person, learnt new, interesting things about education across Europe and I have developed a deeper sense of cultural awareness and uniqueness.
The teacher to be
Having the experience to teach in a classroom, where the main spoken language was not English, is something I will never forget. It allowed me to see that our actions can often speak as loudly as our words; we developed a strong, close bond with the children over a short period of time, even when we couldn’t say more than a few words to them. Learning to use creative and active methods to teach furthermore emphasised the theory we have been looking at back home in Stranmillis. These methods work; they allow all children to reach their own level of education and allow fun to take place in the classroom and links with the GTCNI (2011), who highlight that teachers should understand a range of different strategies for communicating with pupils, using a variety of methods.
Being given the opportunity to meet people from all across Europe has undoubtedly been one of my favourite things from the whole experience. Education is difference across the world and I think we become too complacent in thinking that ‘our way’ is the only way and the best way. My eyes were opened, opinions challenged and ideas sparked for my future as (hopefully) a primary school teacher.
4 and a half months later and my German skills are sadly still on the most basic level. Learning German was hard and the grammar was harder again. Having said this, I am very glad to have gained skills in this area. Coming from Northern Ireland, a country where languages are not taught very well, we noticed a big difference in how quickly we were able to learn the language. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn another language, to understand another way of life; another culture.
As Bernier (2015) mentions;
“Traveling increases our knowledge and widens our perspective”
Experiencing carnival in Innsbruck was a real shock to the system on one of our first weeks living in the city. It was loud, bright and crazy… and it made for a very fun few hours! For the people of Innsbruck, this was just an ordinary, annual event but for us, a novelty. This idea of ‘normal to some, different to others’ became common for many eventualities over the past five months. I loved seeing how things that are so normal to us, can be strange and uncommon to others. I thought that eating dinner at 6pm was a pretty good time, but according to our Spanish friends, it really isn’t! We accept what we know to be true and the ‘norm’ for everyone, so I found it interesting to see that this isn’t always the case.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow”
The past couple of days being home have shown me how much I loved Innsbruck and how much it broadened my opinions and thoughts in many areas. In order to try to sum up the past 137 days spent living in Innsbruck, here are 10 things I learnt…
- Travel is education on the move
- Life is expensive
- Skiing is amazing
- The mountains are beautiful
- Schnitzel is a little bit strange
- Change is good
- New challenges develop us
- German is hard
- Friends are great
- I like new places, new experiences and new people
I am so thankful to have had the incredible opportunity to live and study in Austria; a country so different to Northern Ireland in many ways. Meeting new friends, trying new food, learning new skills and experiencing new cultures have all been eye opening in many ways. An amazing experience shared with 3 great friends.
Bernier, T. (2015) The benefits of Travelling, available at: http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/06/the-benefits-of-traveling/
GTCNI (2011) Teaching: the reflective profession, GTCNI, Northern Ireland