COST program provides learning experience for all
By Bailey Shoenberger |Contributing WriterBy Bailey Shoenberger | 11/30/2015 8:09am
Evan McIntyre participated in the Consortium of Overseas Student Teaching program in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Evan McIntyre
Evan McIntyre, a senior majoring in elementary education, was the youngest COST participant when he was assigned to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, last spring semester. He had experience teaching both in his hometown of Pennsylvania and in Tuscaloosa through the College of Education, but through the COST program, he was challenged to take his education a step further.
“It made me more open-minded in general,” McIntyre said. “You see so much and gain an appreciation. In South Africa there’s a lot of poverty and kids coming from home environments you can’t even imagine, and just also seeing that people are people everywhere.”
McIntyre graduated from high school and came to The University of Alabama at age 16. Before the COST program, the majority of his traveling experience had been as a member of the Million Dollar Band and through a foreign exchange student he met in high school. The ability to live with a host family and student teach through the COST program allowed him to become more deeply immersed in the culture.
“From where I was in South Africa and where I’ve been here, the biggest difference is probably self-motivation,” McIntyre said. “Regardless of their level of engagement, they all saw the purpose of going to school. When you’re working from there, you can be a lot more effective in building up their love of learning.”
Student teaching abroad can broaden a student’s horizons in many ways. One of the first questions that COST participants are asked on their return to the United States is if they would do the program again, and the answer is a unanimous yes.
“They come back more confident, more mature, definitely more environmentally conscious, more well-rounded, but definitely more aware of their surroundings, because we Americans seem to take advantage of the things that we have here,” said COST coordinator Yolandia Eubanks.
Eubanks said the key to success in the COST program is having an open mind and being flexible in the face of diversity. When the students do this, they are able to bring parts of that culture back to their classrooms in the U.S.
McIntyre is also special in that he will be doing a second semester in the COST program this coming spring – this time in Ecuador. He is also applying for the Fulbright scholarship to teach in South Korea.
“I want the kids I teach to know that someone cares all the time, both abroad and here,” McIntyre said. “Some kids come from places where they’re not valued or they’re written off, and some teachers do that also, but it’s amazing what can happen if you can show a kid that you’re there and that you’re not going to give up on them.”
The University is sending its largest group of COST participants this spring, and of the 15 schools that participate in the program, the University is always a top contributor.
To learn more about the cost program, visit education.ua.edu/undergraduate/cost/.