Student Teaching in Tanzania
An African literature high school class at Culver Academy sparked elementary education major Kortney Smith’s desire to travel to Tanzania. Looking for an adventure at the end of her college career to satisfy the student teaching requirement for her English as a second language (ESL) concentration, Smith researched opportunities for student teaching abroad through IU’s Global Gateways program.
“I wanted to feel like a minority and experience culture shock,” she explained, “so I could understand how my ESL students feel.”
The only student in the program to choose Tanzania, Smith travelled alone. It was also her first experience traveling outside of the country. “I was homesick at first,” she said. “But I stepped out and challenged myself a lot.”
Smith lived with a very welcoming host family, who lived and worked on the campus of the local university in Dar es Salaam. The property was filled with trees, and to Smith’s surprise, inhabited by monkeys. “They probably had as many monkeys as we have deer in our woods,” said Smith. “Monkeys are much louder than deer. They chirp all day and night!”
She taught English at Naite Dam English Primary, a 30-minute walk from her home. She enjoyed taking shortcuts through paths in the woods and observing the wildlife. Most of her students spoke some English. She also tutored some local adults in English.
Over time she made friends with locals her age who could speak English, and they met up at the beach to have a Coke or chapatti bread.“I loved chapatti bread,” she said. “I tried to eat it with anything and everything.” Determined to try new foods, she ate rice dishes like pilau, an Indian dish popular in Tanzania, and chips kuku, which is like fries and chicken. “I really miss the food now,” she said.
Although she went to Tanzania to experience what it feels like to be an outsider, to her surprise and delight, she found she felt very accepted. “Being a minority was different there,” she explained.“It’s a very warm, loving culture.” The children and locals welcomed her warmly and were very happy to share their community with her.
She took a few short trips with some of her local friends. One of her adventures took her to Morogoro, Tanzania, a four-hour drive to where the mountains are located in Tanzania. After reaching Morogoro, they drove another two hours up a winding mountain road and then walked another two hours up the mountain and 150 stone steps to reach a beautiful waterfall. “The site was beautiful,” she said,“like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We all got in the water as the water came crashing down the waterfall and got soaking wet. It was a wonderful experience, even though it was so physically challenging to get there.”
They also visited a mountain village.“The kids were nervous at first to come up to me,” she said. “But they did eventually. They loved to play with my long, blond hair and touch my hand.”
In addition to introducing her to new places in Tanzania, her friends also taught her to speak some Swahili. “Teaching me to speak Swahili was the basis of a lot of our conversations,” she said.
As she reflected on her adventure, Smith laughed and said, “I accomplished goals I didn’t even know I had. It showed me that new places and people can be scary at first, but soon you’ll learn to love these people around you.”
Back home in Indiana, Smith is teaching in an elementary school near Indianapolis, and dreaming of her next trip abroad.“Now I have the travel bug,” she said. “I know I’ll look into teaching English abroad again.”
You can read more about Smith’s adventures in Tanzania in her blog, E’Ventures in Tanzania http://go.iu.edu/2aJL.