When David Royster arrived in Indonesia in Feb­ruary for his first inter­na­tional co-​​op, he felt well pre­pared to teach a course on global cit­i­zen­ship, civic engage­ment and cul­tural cel­e­bra­tion at the Bali Global Boarding School. The inter­na­tional affairs and polit­ical sci­ence com­bined major had already spent time in South­east Asia, and had worked with inter­na­tional stu­dents as an admis­sions coun­selor for North­eastern University’s Global Path­ways program.

But despite his con­fi­dence and his care­fully thought out teaching plan, the first chal­lenge he faced was totally unexpected.

Right away, I real­ized that the level of Eng­lish the stu­dents had was nowhere near where it needed to be for such broad and com­plex sub­jects,” said Royster, who will start his junior year this fall. “I had to think fast and come up with a new game plan.”

The school – which is run by the Bali Global Foun­da­tion – allows high school stu­dents to com­plete their aca­d­emic studies while devel­oping real-​​world skills for a career in restau­rant or hotel management.

Royster set out to develop an entirely new cur­riculum. To reach his stu­dents, Royster decided to leverage his appre­ci­a­tion for the­ater and drama in the classroom.

Dra­matic films such as “West Side Story” and Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” – which tell sim­ilar sto­ries in dif­ferent con­texts – allowed Royster to use con­crete exam­ples to increase his stu­dents’ Eng­lish skills while teaching them about mul­ti­cul­tur­alism and the sim­i­lar­i­ties between cultures.

In a cul­ture in which dis­crim­i­na­tion and racism are not often dis­cussed, it proved dif­fi­cult to explore the com­plex topics of global cit­i­zen­ship and civics through vague ideas and con­cepts,” Royster explained. “Instead, these films fueled dis­cus­sions about the Puerto Rican migra­tion to the United States of the 1950s and the issues of dis­crim­i­na­tion that followed.”

Royster had trav­eled to South­east Asia two years before and was drawn to return to the region, though he hadn’t con­sid­ered returning for a co-​​op until a meeting with Ketty Rosen­feld, Northeastern’s director of inter­na­tional co-​​op, who spoke highly of the Bali Institute.

In the four months Royster spent in Bali, he said his stu­dents’ Eng­lish improved markedly. Royster said he plans to go abroad for his third and final co-​​op next year.

I love working with stu­dents, I love sharing cul­ture and ideas and I love learning,” Royster said. “Co-​​op gives you the chance to test out and try things. I appre­ciate how it helps stu­dents who don’t know what they want to do, try out things and come closer to an idea.”