Jane Kittaka ’18 was a self-described homebody before she decided to student teach in a foreign country. She had never adventured on her own and had never traveled outside of the United States.
She had set a goal for herself to travel during college and at the start of her senior year with a full schedule, it didn’t look likely. Except she talked to the right person.
Kevin Zak, department chair for education, happens to be the Northland College liaison for the study abroad program with the University of Glasgow Dumfries. And so, by the end of the conversation, he and Kittaka developed a plan.
“Shipped me off to Scotland, all by myself,” she said with a laugh.
Northland College and the University of Glasgow Dumfries have had a tuition agreement since 2015 to allow for an international exchange of students. Kittaka is the first Northland student to take advantage of the arrangement.
Kittaka, who now teaches primary and secondary science at Carney Nadeau Public School in Carney, Michigan, says Scotland had always been a place that intrigued her for its castles, scenery, and history. “It’s the kind of place where you’ll come across a stone cross in the middle of the field,” she said.
She lived in campus housing but biked, walked, or caught a ride in the opposite direction through Dumfries, a town of about 30,000, to the Maxwelltown High School where she taught. “There were different cultural perspectives but teaching is the same,” she said of the classroom experience. She taught science to first-through-fifth year students, the equivalent of seventh-through-eleventh in the United States.
During her free time, she attended Viking festivals; learned Viking crafts and weaving; road tripped to castles, ruins of cathedrals, coastal areas, and caves. She attended an Episcopal church and made immediate friends who brought her home for lunch and took her sledding the first day they met.
For her last days in the country, she toured the country by bus on her own. “I learned how to be independent, to learn public transportation, and make my own adventures.”
Zak, who has led international trips in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia, says he hopes to have more and more students take advantage of this opportunity.
Kittaka says the experience provided a strong pedagogical foundation for her first teaching position. “I had students that ranged greatly in ability and in behavior—it definitely helped me prepare what I’m doing now,” she said. “The biggest benefit to helping me as a new teacher was the exposure to different cultural perspectives.”