SOE News

New study abroad opportunities for education students

Photo of The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China


Photo of Xue Lan Rong

Xue Lan Rong



Photo of Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa


Photo of Suzanne Gulledge

Suzanne Gulledge


Beginning this summer, education students will have two new opportunities to study abroad. After dreaming about possibilities for their students and engaging in extensive planning, School of Education faculty members have recently developed study abroad programs in China and South Africa.  

“Gateway to China for Teachers: Learning about China and Teaching about America” is led by Xue Lan Rong, professor of social studies education. Students entering the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program can apply to participate in the program for the first time this summer. These students hold baccalaureate degrees in content areas such as English, history, mathematics, biology and chemistry, and are preparing to become high school teachers.

Rong, herself a native of Beijing, will lead 15 M.A.T. students in the six-week experience. Students will spend the first two weeks in Chapel Hill studying and preparing for their experience abroad. They will take an elective course to learn about Chinese history and culture and China’s education system. In addition, they will take two traditional M.A.T. summer courses on “Introduction to Teaching in the 21st Century” and “Diversity in Education.”

The group will then travel to China and stay on campus for three weeks at Xi’an International University in the city of Xi'an, the capital of the Shaanxi province. During that time, the students will continue their studies and also have a unique teaching experience at Xi’an Foreign Language School, where they will teach Chinese high school students about the United States.

The six-week experience will culminate with a week of travel in Beijing and Shanghai. Students will experience contemporary city life, visit local high schools and families, and meet with education officials. They also will visit historical sites such as The Great Wall of China and the Ming Tomb.

“Since the M.A.T. program is developing teachers as leaders, it is important for our students to understand and practice teaching and learning in two cultural frameworks,” said Rong.

“In addition, knowing about China is crucial for the future young citizens of North Carolina, so that the state can be competitive in today’s global economy,” she continued. “I feel fortunate that our M.A.T. students − future North Carolina teachers − will have this unique opportunity to get first-hand experiences in China in the coming summer.”

A new study abroad opportunity in South Africa has been developed for middle grades education majors. They will have an opportunity to complete an internship in a South African school this fall while studying at the University of Cape Town. Suzanne Gulledge, clinical professor of middle grades education, is leading this initiative.

The students are undergraduates in their junior year at Carolina who are majoring in middle grades education and preparing to become middle school teachers. The experience in South Africa is a part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Honors Study Abroad Program and Burch Field Research Seminars, which has had a study abroad program in Cape Town for some time for Carolina undergraduates through the Department of Political Science.  

Gulledge will travel to South Africa in August with the participating education students. She will conduct classes for them on “Introduction to Teaching” and “Planning for Teaching” and help them get started in their internships. She will return to Carolina for the fall semester but, through the use of technology, will remain in ongoing contact with the students in South Africa throughout the fall.

The students will be placed in middle schools in the Cape Town area, where they will work as interns, assisting the teachers and school personnel. In addition, they will enroll in courses on African studies at the University of Cape Town, including “After Reconciliation: Human Rights in Post-Conflict South Africa” and “Contemporary Southern Africa: A Lecture Series on the History and Politics of South Africa.”   

The middle grades students will live in a guest house near the University of Cape Town along with other Carolina students who are participating in the Cape Town Honors Study Abroad program. The other students will be focusing their experiences on fields such as public health, media and journalism, environmental conservation, city planning and the arts. During the semester, the students will participate in a weeklong excursion to the Eastern Cape or some other area in South Africa.

In December, Gulledge will return to South Africa to observe the middle grades students on-site in their placements and close out the semester abroad experience.

“It is so valuable for our students to have experiences in other cultures as they prepare to become teachers,” said Gulledge. “Of particular educational value to our middle grades pre-service teachers will be the opportunity to compare young adolescents and their development cross-culturally. They will consider how young teens in South Africa are like or dissimilar to American adolescents.”

Another advantage to participating students is the blending of the Cape Town experience with the middle grades curriculum at the School of Education. “Students in the Burch Honors Study Abroad Program and in our Middle Grades Teacher Education Program can continue their professional studies program while abroad without delaying progress toward licensure and graduation,” Gulledge stated. “Students who have other majors can add education courses and international service learning to their college transcripts.”

Gulledge expects that, in addition to the benefits to the participating students, the experience will also produce lasting benefits for other students and teachers at their schools. She noted, “We will establish connections between partner schools in the Triangle area and Cape Town and facilitate cultural exchanges in the future.”