Sapna Taggar, Ph.D. • Assistant Professor of Education
No other experience in my career has provided me with as much personal and professional fulfillment as being a study abroad course leader to India. This professional pursuit has provided me with a valuable opportunity to cultivate my growing interest in the field of international education. It has also offered bright and motivated pre-service and in-service teachers the chance to gain insight and firsthand exposure to a vastly different cultural context. Some of the students who participate in study abroad have never traveled out of the country, have never been on an airplane, and would not have been able to go without the financial assistance offered by the university. I have personally witnessed students coming back from these trips with a much-broadened perspective of the world we live in, as well as innovative ideas and resources for addressing issues of diversity in their own classrooms.
Reading about topics related to international education can certainly provide a foundation for understanding issues of cultural difference, but spending time in a different country, living life amongst the local people, and interacting extensively with the country’s own students and teachers are educational experiences that leave an even more lasting impression on an individual. A life changing impact.
As Paulo Friere proposed several years ago, teaching and learning should be considered reciprocal processes in which students become teachers and teachers become “learners of their students.” I have learned so much from my students, here and overseas. As a result, I have grown as an individual. I have gained a new perspective on many aspects of Indian culture and society that I had previously taken for granted. I have been able to view India through “the eyes of the other,” something that has challenged me to think critically about the social and political issues that people of all walks of life face in my parents’ native land. Lastly, I have developed a renewed sense of passion for my identity as a second-generation immigrant of Indian origin, and have really learned to value the customs, rituals, and traditions that are central to who I am as a person.
I have learned tremendously from the experience of leading these courses abroad, and will strive, in the future, to broaden the range of my professional involvement in other countries. As international student teaching becomes a new feature of our EDU program, I am eager to make more connections with schools in India that will be willing to support student teachers from the University of Michigan-Flint. I am also interested in pursuing a partnership with the American University in the United Arab Emirates, with the hopes of developing a study abroad course in the city of Dubai. This is truly my passion, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.