Kaitlin Barry is a TCU student currently student teaching in Panama! Learn more about what studying (and teachcing) aborad is like and what interested Kaitlin in special education!
Major: Early Childhood Education, with an emphasis in Special Education
Hometown: New Braunfels, Texas
Organizations: Best Buddies, Eta Iota Sigma, National Residency Hall Honorary, and Sherley Hall RA
Q: When did you know that you wanted to be a special needs teacher?
A: “Originally, I avoided the education field like the plague! I didn’t want to be a teacher like both of my parents. Over time, the more I was exposed to Special Olympics, Best Buddies, and working with children at the YMCA, the more I could see myself working in schools. I didn’t really find my major; it found me. Now, there’s absolutely no doubt – I LOVE working with special education kiddos in the classroom.”
Q: What were your biggest concerns/worries and the thing you were most excited for about going to Panama?
A: “My health; I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, so I have to keep up with lung therapies in order to stay healthy. My ultimate worry would be getting sick and having to go back home early. God willing, all of my efforts to stay healthy will prove successful, and I’ll get to stay for the entire month. I was most excited to practice Spanish! I would love to become bilingual, and I think immersion is the most fun and effective way to do so.”
Q: What is the one thing you had to bring with you to Panama or else you would’ve been lost without it?
A: “My backpack. Even when I don’t have that many things to carry, I like being able to throw my water bottle, wallet, phone, a book for fun, and other essentials in it so that I can have my hands free. When I don’t have my backpack with me, it feels like I’m missing my security blanket.”
Q: What is it like teaching in other country compared to teaching in America?
A: “Well. That’s a tricky question to answer. I’m working at Balboa Academy which is an American school, so the curriculum isn’t too different from ours in the States. There is however a huge difference in the relationships between the school staff and students; teachers give their students hugs and kisses, tell them they love them all the time, and use cute pet names for them. I love the family-esque style of the teachers here, and I would like to adopt those practices in my future classroom.”
Q: What has been the most fun thing you have done so far in Panama?
A: “Four other TCU education majors and I went snorkeling in the Caribbean Ocean together near the city of Portobello, Panama. It was gorgeous. The coral reefs and the fish were seemingly straight out of Finding Nemo. I had never been snorkeling before, so I was absolutely giddy with excitement. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh every time I came up for air (it probably looked like I was coughing and drowning). I kept looking around at all the clear blue skies, the impossibly green islands, and all the local kids jumping off of the low tree trunks into the ocean. The thought that kept crossing my mind was, Good Lord…the world is so beautiful, and there’s still so much that I’ve yet to see. It was a great feeling.”
Q: Do you have any advice of tips you would like to give to anyone thinking about becoming a teacher or studying abroad?
A: “For anyone who is considering becoming an education major: don’t do it. Hahah. Just kidding. It’s a great profession. If you want to be a good teacher, you should surround yourself with great teachers. Reach out to your favorite teachers from your grade school days, or even your TCU professors, and ask for their advice. Their words will go a long way. For anyone who is considering study abroad: don’t let anything stop you. I almost didn’t go to Panama, because I didn’t want to leave my RA job duties behind. I would have really regretted that decision. Luckily I was very blessed with residents, friends, and RA staff members who encouraged me to go. I even got lots of scholarship money from TCU for the trip! I would advise anyone to visit the study abroad office to ask questions. If you need help making a study abroad experience happen, there are people whose jobs it is to help you!! You’ll be happy you did.”