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The most important aspect of being an educator is often overlooked by educators everywhere: the education one receives from one’s students. Nothing can make the importance of THIS type of education more apparent than embarking upon a teaching assignment outside of your home country. I think a key term to reiterate is “home”. I didn’t understand how much I considered the US ‘home’ until I stepped my foot outside of it to work. Vacation is different. When we are on vacation, we can almost always find surroundings that remind us of home. We are not forced to step beyond our ‘comfort zone’. When you are working, however, in a university that is attended only by locals, you find your way of thinking, teaching, responding, reacting, learning, speaking, grading, and living all being forced outside of a box you didn’t even know existed. You find that you are floundering, yes I said floundering. Yes, a person with a degree (a Ph.D.), years of teaching university level students, and grand amounts of knowledge (at least I thought so, lol) was FLOUNDERING! I learned very quickly that all I had learned in my ‘home’ country, worked best (drumroll please) at home!

In order to set some semblance of organization after I arrived, I swooped in set up a syllabus, developed assignments, set up Blackboard, and started to teach. My course schedule had finals set for December. I arrived in October. I was ready to go. One of my students quietly approached me after what I thought to be a FABULOUS class. She quietly told me that although there was a break in December, the semester did not actually end until the final week in January. Also, one of the assignments I created could not be completed by many students because most unmarried, Muslim, girls did not feel comfortable interviewing males, even if they were professional, male, psychologists.

I had to take a step back. A HUGE step back. I felt like a ‘Stranger in Moscow”. I was lucky to have students who were willing to teach me and walk me through the process of getting acclimated. I found myself having to lean on and learn from my students. Of course, the start of a new semester brought sturdier footing, a new sense of self. and a somewhat increased knowledge of culture as it pertains to the psychological field. However, I did not forget the importance and necessity of constantly consulting my students.

Consulting our students, making them a part of the process rather than a mere consumer, and valuing their input are often touted as important parts of the educational process. How many of you actually do this? Most of the time? Some of the time?

How have you been educated by your students?