Teach to Learn: Study Abroad Alumnus Luke Harris
Born in Lake Tahoe, California, and raised in Sacramento, Luke Harris studied abroad at JCU in Fall 2019, where he participated in the Italy Reads program. He is currently teaching 8th grade at an elementary school in Stockton, California.
What prompted you to become a teacher?
I firmly believe that every child is born with the ability to achieve their deepest dreams and reach their highest potential, but not all students are given the opportunity to do so, and this inequity is what drove me towards a career in education. I want to make sure that every student who enters my classroom understands how important he/she is to me and this world, and how he/she has the ability to be whatever they want to be in life. I want to make sure that all of my students see each other as valuable and important, so they can become prosocial thinkers who view others as highly as themselves. I plan on spending my entire career ensuring my students become the best version of themselves.
Tell us about your background.
I graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Development, a minor in History, and the Weber Honor’s College Minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. During the Fall semester of my senior year, I studied abroad at John Cabot University, where I studied history, participated in the Italy Reads Program, and traveled through Europe and Northern Africa. I am beginning my career in education as an 8th-grade teacher in Stockton, California, through Teach For America, an AmeriCorps organization.
How did studying abroad at JCU benefit you?
Studying abroad in Rome at JCU was the best decision I have made in my life so far, and I could not imagine my experience anywhere else. The school is in the perfect location, for Rome is such an incredible city with so many opportunities to explore and grow. Through my time at JCU, I not only learned more about myself but also about the various cultures throughout Europe and Northern Africa, which will help me be a better leader and a more understanding and conscious person. Furthermore, I met incredible teachers and staff at JCU, who taught me more about the world than I ever knew.
I liked the activities and the classes offered at the school, for I love history, and I appreciated the opportunity to be able to learn world history from a non-American perspective. I appreciated how the Italy Reads program would allow me to visit Italian high schools, which I thought would give me a chance to see the similarities and differences between education systems. I thought this experience would help me become a better educator when I returned home.
I still keep with me the leadership and advice given to me by Gina Spinelli, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for External Affairs and Special Projects and Coordinator of the Italy Reads Program, along with all of my professors, who gave me wisdom and knowledge I would have never received anywhere else. Finally, I made memories and friends that I will keep for the rest of my life, and I attribute all of these experiences to John Cabot University.
How did you get involved with the Italy Reads program?
I never knew just how big an impact Italy Reads would have on me. I was the Events Team Leader and also participated in several school visits. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with many different high school students and share the similarities and differences in our cultures. I admire the hard work and dedication the students on my Events Team provided, as well as the desire to learn and grow as leaders. I admire the many different teachers I got to meet, who gave me an incredible perspective on what it means to be an educator.
What’s your fondest memory about your time at JCU?
There are thousands of memories from my time at JCU that make this question so hard to answer! I had so many experiences, established so many life-long friendships, and visited so many incredible places that giving one memory seems insufficient. Nevertheless, the greatest memory that comes to mind is one of my first days at JCU, when all the new study abroad students were separated into groups and given a tour of Rome. During this tour, I met two of the friends that I spent most of my time in Rome with, and companions that I will keep for the remainder of my life. I firmly believe that this experience, which I saw as so small and insignificant at the time, is one that changed my life forever, for I made friends I never would have made, and created so many more memories that I will keep with me forever.
Any advice for students considering studying abroad?
I want to thank John Cabot University and everyone I met there for the incredible experiences. I will never forget my time in Rome, and I think about my study abroad adventures every day. Second, for any students who are on the fence about studying abroad, I want to stress just how incredible of an experience it is. The opportunity to live in another country for several months, the experience of living and eating like a local, is one that does not come around often. I highly recommend taking that chance, for it is one that will change your life and how you see the world forever. Do not be worried about not having friends, or not knowing the area, or not knowing what you will do every day. I went to Italy and JCU alone, with no idea what I was getting myself into, and came out with friends I will keep for life and memories that will last forever. So, if you are on the fence, choose to study abroad, I promise you will not regret it.