March 26, 2010
Russell Dedeaux can easily sum up Indiana State University's Spring Break.
"It's like a passport," he said of the trip. "Initially, it's just a book with pages in it. Now, it has a stamp of success in it."
Just like his real passport now bears a stamp from Ireland and, it too, symbolizes success for Dedeaux. The senior elementary and special education major spent 10 days in Ireland on a university-sponsored trip during spring break.
That success stamp in Dedeaux's life passport has tangible and intangible meaning to it for him. It's a world discovered with a desire to learn more. An island explored. Lessons learned. Unfounded fears.
For Pat Wheeler, professor, and Kathryn Bauserman, associate professor with Indiana State's elementary and special education department, the lessons learned that affect students personally and professionally are the point of study abroad trips. This year the professors and 10 students spent time in the Irish countryside and three days observing Irish classrooms.
"After taking two different groups, I'm sold on the study abroad experience," Bauserman said about the department's second trip to Ireland. "They have to learn how to survive in another culture and that will help them in the classroom when they have students come with the same differences."
"We try to get them to feel how their own students might feel in their cultural journeys," Wheeler said.
For Dedeaux, lessons began with the decision to journey to Ireland.
"Coming from Fort Wayne, it's a big step out of my norm to leave the country," he said.
He received support for the trip from a scholarship and from golfers at a country club in Fort Wayne where he would caddy.
Dedeaux thought it would be important, as a future educator, to travel outside of the United States.
"You get a taste of another culture and education system," he said. "You can bring ideas from them back to the states."
His three days spent inside a Dublin school taught its lessons.
"I thought the kids over there would be totally different, but they're the same," he said. "They need love and care from adults."
He and another student spent their days at Monkstown Farm School, which is considered a high poverty school in Dublin.
"That's where I want to be because I have experience with that," Dedeaux said about the school type.
On his first day, he found a school decorated with graffiti and trash burning on the school playground.
"I thought ‘What am I getting myself into,'" he said. "That changed when I walked inside. They have a supportive principal and the most caring teachers.
"Inside it was almost like a security blanket for children. It was safe, they have a meal. Usually in Ireland, they don't serve meals. Children have to bring their own sack lunch."
He showed the students magic tricks to help break the ice, urging the students to practice them at home. He answered questions about America and discovered he had more to learn.
"I wanted to know more about my country because they knew so much about theirs," he said. "Next time I go abroad, I can be an advocate for my country."
Indiana State students traveled to the town of Doolin to listen to Irish music and take Irish dancing lessons. They visited the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. In Dublin, the students navigated their ways through the public transportation system.
Along the way, Dedeaux lost fears he had before the trip and learned about himself in the process. As an assignment in preparing for the journey, Wheeler had the students create a list of things that scare them about the trip.
Dedeaux wrote that he worried about being the only minority or the only person having dreadlocks in Ireland. He feared that he might not like the food. Those fears dissolved as he discovered that minorities lived in Ireland. He met two other people with dreadlocks. He found he enjoyed blood pudding.
At the airport before leaving Ireland, Wheeler handed Dedeaux his list.
"When I opened that list, I was relieved that all the bad things I had built up didn't happen," he said. "I wondered, "Why did I put all this stuff down?'"
Consider it a successful lesson learned.
Contact: Pat Wheeler, Indiana State University, professor of elementary and special education, at 812-237-2851 or Pat.Wheeler@indstate.edu
Kathryn Bauserman, Indiana State University, associate professor of elementary and special education at 812-237-2853 or Kathryn.Bauserman@indstate.edu
Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or Jennifer.Sicking@indstate.edu
Cutline: Russell Dedeaux, senior elementary and special education major from Fort Wayne, poses on a beach in Ireland. Courtesy photo.
Students spent 10 days in Ireland on a university-sponsored trip during spring break.