Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

WCE Students Visit Classrooms in Ethiopia

Thursday, January 04, 2018

WCE associate professors Heidi Higgins and Michele Parker led a trip to Ethiopia in December, as part of an international studies program offered by the Watson College. Six undergraduate students, one doctoral student and an elementary school teacher participated in the field experience.

During the visit, the group spent 10 days in Addis Ababa, where they engaged with students and teachers in four different school settings. Schools visited were the Yeneta Academy, which serves students in Pre-K through grade 8; the International Community School, which serves Pre-K through grade 12; a government public school that is a partner school to ICS; and the Fregenet School, which serves students in Pre-K through grade 2.

Higgins and Parker brought the first university education students to Ethiopia in 2015. Over the past two years they have continued to communicate with the owner of the Fregenet School and were able to return with students in 2017. Each school visited offered students incredible learning opportunities but the time spent at the Fregenet School had the greatest impact, Higgins said. At the school, WCE students taught lessons in English, collaborated with teachers, helped to prepare food and sang and danced with the children. Higgins shared quotes from her students about the experience.

“I have never felt so much love concentrated into one place than I did on our last day,” one wrote. “It was filled with laughter, joy, dancing and tears.”

“From the moment I stepped into the Fregenet School, I fell in love with everything about it,” another wrote. “The school rings happiness, excellence and compassion. I remember thinking, ‘This is exactly why I came.’”

Another wrote, “Great things happen here not because of abundant resources but because of the complete dedication and perseverance of the teachers.”

Breanna Morris, Sarah Bischoff, Meakin McPhaul, Alexa Soosar, Haley Koehler, Brittany Mitchell, Bryan Holley and Kayla Pulliam ’16 participated in the experience. Morris, Bischoff and McPhaul are enrolled in WCE’s elementary education program; Soosar and Koehler are enrolled in WCE’s special education program; Mitchell is enrolled in WCE’s middle grades program; Holley is a doctoral student at the Watson College; and Pulliam is a special education teacher at Rachel Freeman School of Engineering. Pulliam also participated in WCE’s 2015 visit to Ethiopia as an undergraduate student. Stephen Hill, assistant professor in UNCW’s Cameron School of Business also traveled with the group to explore partnership opportunities for business students.

Higgins said she and Parker look forward to a continued collaboration with the Fregenet School through WCE’s International Study Abroad program. She also hopes to find ways to work with the Fregenet Foundation so more children in Ethiopia can have access to the resources that the Fregenet School offers.