A Life Abroad: English Education Student Celebrates Unique Perspectives
Hannah Haber spent her teenage years living abroad. While most Grace students were learning at American high schools, Haber was attending international schools in Lithuania and Ghana. Now a second-year student studying English Education and Spanish in a Teacher Education Program, Haber’s time abroad serves as a foundation for her future career as a teacher.
After living in Indiana until she was 10, Haber and her family moved to the Washington D.C. area, then later to New York, for her dad’s training to be a diplomat. During this time, Haber and her brothers were homeschooled while they moved around, often from hotel to hotel.
“I was hesitant at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but now every time we get our assignment to move, I’m super stoked,” Haber says. “Now, I want to live abroad for the rest of my life.”
When Haber was in eighth grade, her family moved across the world to Uganda, for her father’s first official assignment. They stayed there for two years before moving to Lithuania and then to Ghana two years after that. The family’s next assignment will be in Egypt before they return to the United States.
“My faith grew a lot while abroad,” Haber says. “Being displaced every two years, you learn to quickly adapt to new environments. One of the most effective ways to do so, in my experience, is by relying on the few constants I actually have — one of those being my faith.”
Attending international schools, Haber had the opportunity to learn with students from a variety of backgrounds. Despite their diverse backgrounds in other countries, they learned to embrace their cultural differences and form friendships quickly. “There’s this mindset that one of us might not be here tomorrow because everyone’s always moving, so we have to make the most of today,” Haber says.
Haber adds that the support she received from her teachers abroad was equally impactful for her. “Because I went to international schools, I had small class sizes, so I was able to develop really awesome relationships with teachers,” she says. “Those strong teacher relationships were always a hint to me that I was going to be a teacher.”
Haber hopes to develop similar relationships with her students one day as an English education teacher. “The ability to interact one on one and develop little inside jokes with your students, that’s very rewarding,” she says.
Haber says her teachers were also advocates of great learning. “They tried to steer students in the right direction, and they genuinely cared. I can say that with confidence.”
In late high school, Haber learned from the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which she says emphasized critical thinking. “It was very much about shaping the learner in a holistic sense,” she says. Haber adds that the program encouraged students to think for themselves as they come to their own conclusions based on their experiences and understanding.
Students also had to engage in creativity, activity, and service, which pushed them to get involved in extracurricular activities, community service, and schoolwork synchronously. Haber credits the IB curriculum and her teachers with much of her success and development in high school and college.
After graduation, Haber has her sights set on returning to the context that she received much of her schooling and teaching in international schools. But for now, she is applying the skills she learned abroad to her classes at Grace, in the teacher education program. “I think that even if my classes teach me something I know as a person, they push me to apply those skills to being a teacher,” she says. “It’s about refining and learning to be the best educator I can be.”
Haber also acts as an advocate for international teaching among her peers at Grace. “Few people I’ve talked to in my education classes have thought about going abroad, but it’s something that is so awesome to get the opportunity to do,” she says. “It’s not for everybody, but I recommend that everyone at least think about it.”
Once she becomes a teacher, Haber wants to encourage her students to develop their own opinions and to use their voices to share their unique perspectives. She understands first-hand the value of giving students the opportunity to come to conclusions on their own.
“At international schools, diversity is celebrated,” Haber says. “It’s really a beautiful thing to watch and participate in— there are so many variables, whether that be language, culture, socioeconomic status, etc. that are so easily overcome when the priority is to critically think, communicate, and find a solution for a problem. Everyone contributes, and everyone has something to offer.”