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USC students travel to high places for academic learning

6 Mar 2020

An academic adventure has taken a group of USC Fraser Coast Education students from thinking outside the box in a Peruvian classroom to trekking high in the Andes mountains.

Thomas Biden, Emma Rutherford, Rhiannon Lowe and Curtis Muller were among a group of USC students selected to teach English and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to Peruvian primary school students over the university break.

USC Senior Lecturer in Education Dr Peter Grainger led the two-week program, which provided students with work integrated learning opportunities in South America.

It is one of several short-term international study programs offered by USC to provide students with opportunities to travel overseas for educational experiences that counts toward their degrees.

“Students learned how to think outside of the box, using innate skills in challenging environments where IT infrastructure can be non-existent and without access to teaching resources that can often be taken for granted,” Dr Grainger said.

“Through these programs, student can become ‘global citizens’ with an intercultural capability that was previously untapped or underdeveloped and only comes about when put into such an environment.”

Dr Grainger said the students had gained both self-confidence from achieving classroom objectives and personal growth from overcoming various challenges in Peru.

“Challenges included teaching English when it is not their specialisation and a multitude of cultural differences and nuances – not just cuisine but communicating in Spanish, getting out of their comfort zones and getting used to the different impacts of altitude on the body.”

Second-year Education student Thomas Biden from Hervey Bay said, while being immersed into Peru’s culture and visiting ancient Incan sites was an incredible experience, his highlight was teaching the local children.

“Although initially apprehensive about the language barrier, having the opportunity to present a lesson in a Peruvian school proved to me the true power of the teaching practices I have developed throughout my USC career,” he said.

“My greatest challenge was adapting my usual teaching style to suit a non-English speaking classroom by using more visual cues and unspoken language,” he said.

“The biggest take away is my newfound confidence in teaching children from all different backgrounds, cultures and languages.”

While in Peru, the students trekked to Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains, visited Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, and toured the Sacred Valley.

They stayed in Urubamba, an historical village about an hour from Machu Picchu, where they participated in creative exchanges and community projects including painting murals and creating vegetable gardens.

— Clare McKay

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