Week 16

Personal Reflection
7th - 14th May

Final Performance
I’m finding it really hard to believe that Week 16 has come and gone and this will be the last blog I will right from Flat 2 in Vossenveld which I have made my home for the last four months. People who know me know that I am a ‘homebird’ and love getting home from Belfast on a Friday evening for some home comforts. With this in mind and the very emotional goodbyes that took place the night before I left, I’m pretty sure there were many people who wondered would I ever last the four months. Little did they know that I was determined to see it to the end as I knew that this would be an experience of a lifetime.
Final Performance
Everyone who I talked to before I left told me the time would fly and it really has. Looking back I can vividly remember sitting in this same room writing my first blog post and now I wonder where the time has went to. At this point my emotions are very mixed. Although I am very excited about getting home to see my family and friends, I am going to miss Nijmegen and the way of life that I made for myself here. It will be strange not living with these people who have been my flatmates, my classmates and in many ways my family for the last four months.
Having spent so much time with each other I have learned a lot about these people.  It has been very interesting to live with people from other cultures and find out how they live life, the values they uphold and how they conduct themselves around other people. This has made me really reflect on myself as a person and many aspects of their personalities have positively influenced me. As well as this I would say I am more certain and confident in what I uphold as my values in life and desirable personality traits.
The collage we made Harry for all his help
with the international students.
There have also been many aspects of the Dutch lifestyle that I have embraced. One particular aspect is the relaxed lifestyle. Too often in Ireland we get worked up and stressed about matters that are irrelevant and unimportant. I have found that when it comes to assignments deadlines here in The Netherlands that nobody really gets stressed out whereas in contrast to this at home we are all nearly tearing our hair out. The Dutch set a deadline but it is a case of whenever they get the work they get it, whether it is a day early, 2 days late or a month late. One must consider that if the work is not completed in time with a schedule they can just postpone their graduation to the next year. With the organised and structured mentality people seem to work with in Ireland I cannot ever see this being the case. Although I like the more relaxed attitude to many aspects of life here, as a future educator I think there are many aspects in life in which organisation and accountability is fundamental in order to maintain standards, e.g. assessment.
In all, I can wholeheartedly say this has been a once in a lifetime experience and everything that I hoped it would be. I have seen many places, met many new people of which I will be keeping in contact with and I have learned so much about myself. I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go. Although we all have preferences in places that we’d like to go to, I personally think you can have this experience in any country as it’s what you make it. You must step out of your comfort zone, embrace the culture and the language and make an effort to meet new people in order to the most of any experience.


The International Class!

Week 15

Personal/Professional Reflection
30th April – 7th May
As I near the end of this Erasmus adventure here in The Netherlands I wish to reflect on one of the most central and fundamental aspects of moving to a new country and being able to participate in everyday life there, that being the language. Without a doubt, having very little knowledge of the Dutch language did make me somewhat anxious before I left. Although I had learned some useful phrases and words from the language labs in Stranmillis, it wasn’t long before I realised that certain words have many meanings and the way we pronounced them was hardly even translatable. Thankfully my fears were put to ease in the first few days when we realised most people have some English and are willing to help in most situations. Their enthusiasm to practice their English and ability to converse in the English language made me even more eager to learn the Dutch language.
One of the many situations where the class
had the opportunity to converse in
English with me.
As part of our course here we have been taking Dutch language classes each week. At the beginning, these made me very excited as I thought they were a great opportunity to get a good grasp on the basics of the language which would enable me to participate in all aspects of Dutch life more effectively, but as time went on I soon realised that I wasn’t learning very much. As I reflect on this experience I can say that the way this second language was taught was not very effective. Stranmillis has given me much preparation in dealing with children who English is an additional language and from this I can see how the use of simple words and useful phrases that children will need is more useful at the start than teaching grammar and structure of language. In any case, from this experience I can most definitely say I know how it feels like to be one of these children where they feel lost and frustrated in situations when they are unable to communicate.
The teachers in my placement school were very good at making me feel involved and making sure I knew what was going on most of the time. At the same time I spent much of the day clueless and silent at the back of the class. I enjoyed my placement school very much but there were many times whilst I observed the teacher teaching I wished I could understand what she was saying as the it was evident the way she taught was exemplary as well as the way she interacted with the pupils in the class. After all much can be learned from observing a situation rather than being told how it shoudl look.
From my previously learned knowledge about teaching languages and the useful classes about teaching English here in PABO, I was able to plan and teach meaningful and beneficial lessons to the children in my placement school. I used stories and songs with language relevant to everyday life with gestures and actions enabling children to build upon what they already knew and expand their English vocabulary. When I first met these children they were not very confident in speaking English but after the 6 weeks that I had been in their classes I was pleasantly surprised at how eager they were to converse in English and learn new words and phrases.
For me this experience has been very beneficial in many ways. Not only have I grasped some of the Dutch language but I have also seen how language is a key part of accessing a culture and without it life would be very isolated and difficult. For me learning some of the language was not easy but I have seen how it opened up many doors. Personally I think Walter V. Kaulfers encapsulates the importance if making an effort and learning some of the language. He says, “In humans relations a little language goes farther than a little of almost anything else. None makes a wall, some can make a gate.”
Group 8 showing me their version of
'Head Shoulders Knees and Toes!'
I have also seen how the way languages are taught has a huge impact on people being able to learn them. As a future educator I have benefited greatly, not only I am able to empathise with children who do not have English as their mother tongue but I have gained more knowledge about how to teach these children as well as having experience of teaching English to second language learners which is something I have not done before.