This is the second story in our BT Community Voices series. Today, we hear from Lidia Lopez, BT student and teaching fellow alumna and senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Lidia is studying Math with minors in Education and Race & Ethnicity Studies. Last summer, she had the opportunity to student teach in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India. Thank you, Lidia, for reflecting on your experience and sharing some advice for younger BT students!
I am currently working on earning my 5-12 math teaching license with the intent to teach middle school math. As a requirement for earning a teaching license I had to take a semester to student teach and work in a classroom setting. St. Olaf’s education department has a partnership with an international school in India and through such I was able to spend my semester student teaching abroad. Being that I do not want to teach in Minnesota, and that I want to work with students of color, I felt India was the perfect placement. Since the school system is different, I left home at the end of June, one month after finishing my junior year of college, and set flight to Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India. Once there I worked with the 6th and 7th grade math teacher to plan lessons, create assessments, grade, and write reports about my students. After 3 weeks, my host teacher let me take total control of the classroom and left me to gain real experience, some days were hard but I loved it all. Kodaikanal is a hill station that took 2 hours to get down from, I spent the majority of my time in town teaching but on the weekends, the school offered hikes where I was able to see Kodai as its natural self. I got to see buffalo from a distance and monkeys from close up, there were also lots of cows that would roam the streets freely. The food was definitely different but it was all so good; I ate lots of rice, curry, lemon soda, and various breads. It was definitely a great experience and the 3.5 months I got to spend in India helped reassure me that teaching middle school math is definitely what I want to do.
As my last year at St. Olaf reaches its mid-point, I realize what a great decision I made in moving to Minnesota. I always knew I wanted to go out of state for college but I was nervous, my first year was definitely difficult, I did not like my major and was scared to switch. However, after serving as a TF for BTSJC that first summer back home, I realized teaching is what I wanted to do. With the help of my St. Olaf TRIO SSS advisor, I was able to change majors without falling behind and was much happier with my classes. My time at Olaf has provided me with great opportunities such as studying off campus in Hawaii for a month, and going to Texas to volunteer as a legal assistant at a family immigration detention center. Between my friends, advisors, and professors I feel I have the best support system possible, even though I am far from my family I have come to feel at home here.
Some advice I would give to current BT students is to go out of state for college! California is great, but there is so much more to see. It is hard being far from home but being away has given me the chance to really feel independent, it is what allowed me to feel excited rather than scared about going to India. Plus it makes going home even better.
Lidia inspires us to take risks and pursue opportunities in new places! For prospective students, check out https://wp.stolaf.edu/ to learn more about St. Olaf College (read: they have excellent financial aid!) Keep your eyes open for more stories in the coming weeks.