YSU Youngstown State

Beeghly College Takes Students to Czech Republic

By Marcia Matanin

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Beeghly College of Education at Youngstown State University prepares teachers, counselors, school administrators and school psychologists who are job-ready from day one. This results from the myriad in-depth field placements our students learn from experienced practitioners who teach them how to meet the needs of the students, families and clients they will serve.

At the same time, thanks to the efforts of our faculty, international programs in the Beeghly College are growing rapidly. The most recent example is a study-abroad trip to the Czech Republic and hosted by Palacky University, one of the largest teacher preparation institutions in that country.

The purpose of the trip was to expand the knowledge of 21 future educators about student diversity, European culture and education, assist them in becoming better global citizens, and increase their awareness of differences and similarities between the countries and their cultures.

Students visited schools, churches, cathedrals and museums and participated in festivals and other activities that allowed them to experience the Czech way of life.

Each week, through hands-on experiences, students studied art, music and drama therapy, special education, comparative education before and after Communism, and Czech architecture and culture.

Students learned about the history of Olomouc, the city they called home during their stay in the Czech Republic. On weekends, they traveled to Slovakia, Austria and Poland. The final weekend in Europe was spent exploring Paris. Students visited the iconic Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles and many other landmarks.

A large portion of the program included visits to many schools in the Czech Republic.

Our students visited a school for autism where they worked with students, a Montessori school where they taught English, a local school where their third-grade students learned a special song and sang it for the YSU students, and a school for the visually impaired where they saw an outdoor mobility course used to train blind children how to navigate in a real-world setting.

One of the most difficult aspects of the trip was traveling to Poland to see the Holocaust Museum and the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. It was a somber day, the experiences of those people made real by seeing articles of clothing, shoes, suitcases and even hair from the victims who lost their lives.

Although the YSU students had studied about the Holocaust, seeing the concentration camps was a history lesson no one could have prepared them for. The students left Auschwitz feeling both overwhelmed and humbled, while also grateful for the experience they shared.

We have always dreamed of designing a study abroad experience like this for future teachers. Many of the students related how they would have never been able to do something like this on their own and were so appreciative for the opportunity. Other students related how the study abroad empowered them, giving them the confidence to travel internationally on their own. That made all the planning and effort worthwhile.

The students not only were grateful for the education they received but also for the friendships and memories created throughout this program.

Kelly Passmore, one of the students who participated in the study abroad, said she was thankful to have the opportunity to travel the world and learn about different cultures. Two other students, Annie DeLuco and Natalie Lacich, said the program was life-changing and allowed them to see themselves as different and better people from the experience.

The author is the chairwoman of teacher education at Youngstown State University’s Beeghly College of Education. The college consists of three departments: teacher education; counseling, special education, and school psychology; and educational foundations, research, technology and leadership. The college enrolls nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. About 80% of the classroom teachers in the Mahoning Valley have earned degrees from the college.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.