Education students swap beaches for snowfields

13 February 2013

Following the success of a pilot program in 2012, a group of 10 students from the faculty has joined a delegation of peers from across Europe for the five-week exchange at Umea University, Sweden.

Dr Wayne Cotton, who helped implement this new exchange, said one of its key aims was "to build international opportunities for our students to develop them as global citizens".

"In our shrinking world where multicultural societies are becoming the norm, I believe this type of international experience will aid in breaking down the barriers between cultures by increasing understanding of societal differences," he said. "This process is particularly important for the next generation of teachers, who will be the educators of the social climate in the future."

Trip reports

Becki Simadas
Year 4 Bachelor of Education (Sec: Human Movement and Health Education) student

"I am in my third week at Umea in the northern part of Sweden. Although there is a mixture of secondary and primary teachers, I am the only student here from the Human Movement degree at Sydney. We spent the first week with four hours of class each day. During this time we got to know one another and learnt about the Swedish school system. Along with the 10 students from Sydney University, there are also others from Germany, South Africa, America and Turkey who are in our class. This meant that we were also able to discuss and compare education from the perspectives of these countries as well. It was very interesting to discover how universal some of the concepts and values are that these future teachers shared.

"For the next three weeks it was out into school to get hands-on experience and some insight into the way Swedish schools operate in a practical sense. The school I am visiting is called Grubbe Skolan and is a secondary school with students in years 7-9 (aged 13-16). Physical Education here is very different compared to Australia due to the vastly different climate. During my first week the students went cross-country skiing, shot air rifles, went ice-skating and played ice hockey. This second week we have classes indoors and as such I have the opportunity to teach them 'Australian' sports such as netball, cricket and AFL. It has been really challenging and exciting attempting to teach with not only the language barrier, but also sports about which students have no prior knowledge. My third and final week in the school will be spent outside doing winter activities again.

"Every minute not spent at Uni or school is used up trying to squeeze in all the different experiences of life in Umea. We spend a lot of time meeting other students and enjoying 'fika' (coffee and cake). Fika was the first Swedish word most of us learnt. This weekend a few of us went up north to the Arctic Circle to a town called Jokkmokk as the local Sami people have a weekend of markets. It was minus 28 degrees and so very cold, but was a wonderful experience to meet the locals, do some shopping, go dog sledding and watch reindeer races. Later on in the trip we are all going up north again to Kiruna to stay at the Ice Hotel.

"A particularly memorable moment has been the Australia Day celebrations that we held outside in the snow. Even minus 10 degrees couldn't deter us from having a BBQ and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100 outside with a few drinks. A lot of people came and partied with 'the crazy Australians'. It is truly wonderful to not only be able to learn about and experience another culture, but also that with opportunities such as this you also get to share a bit of your own."

Grace Leggett
First student to travel from the faculty to Umea University on exchange, in 2012

"The exchange provided me the opportunity to put teaching English as a second language into practice with other pre-service teachers from across the world both at Umea University and a local high school. The contact with a diverse group of pre-service teachers gave me an insight into alternative ideas about education, helping me to reflect on my own practice and redefine it according to the experiences had by my peers.

"The placement at the local high school helped me gain an insight into Swedish culture and language. Due to the structure of the Swedish curriculum and the support and flexibility provided to me by the staff at Vastangard Skola, I was given autonomy over the content I chose to teach. I decided to use my Australian background and knowledge to structure my lessons. In a PE lesson, I taught students about cricket and set up a backyard cricket match in the gymnasium where rules such as one hand one bounce were enforced. In music I gained access to AC/DC sheet music changing the words to 'a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll'. I also shared with students the unique Australian language, employing the use of colloquial words that students then had to use in a rap, play or story. My favourite lesson, which I repeated for different classes, was the explaining of Indigenous history and culture using established Dreamtime stories to give an understanding of the rich culture and history of Australia.

"These unique Australian lessons I taught to students were also met with a cultural exchange of information. Students in the last 10 minutes of each lesson would discuss with me words, stories or aspects of Australian culture that were also found in Sweden. Just as much as I enjoyed teaching them, the students enjoyed teaching me about their culture and history.

"The four weeks were not entirely spent teaching however, with plenty of time after school to play in the snow, attempt to ski, travel and engage in local forms of entertainment such as ice hockey. I struggled to understand the weather throughout the period with inside my student housing being a comfortable 23 degrees, whereas outside was a crisp minus 20.

"Unlike other exchanges that are offered by the University of Sydney for Education students, the short exchange at Umea University allowed me as a pre-service teacher to put into practice and develop my pedagogy within a school. The knowledge I have gained through reflection and exchange reminded me that in my role as a teacher; I am a lifelong learner."

Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961

Email: 34050227406d2009182e276b1a03035931147b0f312c47085a77