To be completely honest, the thought of traveling gives me an unsettled feeling. This feeling shows no discrimination to distance, as I become anxious over a simple trip to a neighboring state. That being said, you can only imagine the emotions I am going through as I prepare to study abroad in Reggio Emilia, Italy for a week! As I sift through these overwhelming thoughts of traveling to another country, I remind myself of all the times I have felt this before. Yet, every single time, the Lord has shown me His faithfulness through the life-giving experiences He gives me while traveling. Looking at His track record gives me confidence to say this time will surely be no different!
Thankfully, I have had tuition covered during my time at UA, which made my parents more apt to help pay for this trip. I did apply to several scholarships though in order to help out in all the ways that I could. Italy has always been a dream trip of mine, which definitely influenced my decision to go. However, the professional development that I will take away is what made me 100% sure. As I prepare to leave, I have packed several appropriate outfits for long days of walking/exploring. I am preparing mentally by praying and trusting the Lord’s plans for this trip!
To give a little background on my trip, I will be going to Italy with eleven other elementary education majors and our fabulous faculty member. Prior to departure, we are reading select chapters from The Hundred Languages of Children and Visible Learners, each one discussing the “Reggio Emilia approach”. This educational approach promotes student-driven, experiential learning in a community-based environment. It is heavily based on constructivism, which is the idea that children construct their own meaning through experiences and reflection. I will visit schools in Italy that have been built upon this approach and get the privilege of seeing this type of instruction firsthand.
I just graduated from the University of Alabama from the Multiple Abilities Program, certifying me in both elementary general education and special education. My next step is to attend Vanderbilt graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in special education. This trip falls between these two momentous events and will fill my gap with exciting knowledge that continues to shape my teaching philosophy. The Reggio Emilia approach aligns quite well with all that I learned in my program, as our main themes are authentic teaching, empowerment, diversity, and reflection. As a special educator, I whole-heartedly believe that “the child has a hundred languages” and we must allow diversity to shine through children of all abilities (Loris Malaguzzi)!
On a lighter, not-so-serious note, this trip is a dream. Not only will I see educational practices that I learned here put into practice over 5,000 miles away, but I will experience the glory of the Lord in a different country. His goodness has no limits, and He is the same here as He is in Italy. I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to find glimpses of His grace as I study abroad. Whether it be through the gorgeous scenery, the tasty pasta, or the new friendships- I know His presence will be near!