International Educator Interviews: Amanda in Venezuela

This week’s interview is with fellow blogger Amanda teaching in Venezuela. She loves the country so much that she’s moving on to her second school there. After reading her interview, check out her blog at teachingwanderlust.com

Where are you now and what are you currently teaching?

I’m currently teaching second grade in Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela. It is a tiny city on the coast of the largest lake in South America. Sadly, Lake Maracaibo is too polluted to take advantage of.

Is this your first international post or is this one in a string of many international posts for you?

Before teaching here, I was teaching second grade in China and before that, I taught preschool in Mexico. I have also taught summer school and summer camps in Japan, Italy, and Azerbaijan.

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At Angel Falls-the tallest waterfall in the world

What made you decide to teach internationally?

There were two things that set me on my path towards becoming an international educator: volunteering in an ESL class and Camp Adventure. While volunteering in an ESL class at a local middle school (when I was a high school student), I learned that I worked well with international students. It started me thinking about what their lives must have been like before they immigrated to Portland and inspired me to learn more about Vietnam, Mexico, and China. When I was a sophomore at the University of Oregon I learned about a program called Camp Adventure Youth Services. It is an internship program through the University of Northern Iowa. They allow you to earn the equivalent of 16 upper division credits and pay for your airfare, housing, and food stipend while teaching a summer camp overseas. I was a camp counselor in Japan in 2005 and then a camp director in Italy in 2006. It was in Italy that I knew I wanted to live and teach overseas as a career.

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

I think the most challenging part of starting at a new school is finding all of the classroom resources you need. As a teacher in the U.S., it is really common to find your own resources at garage sales, thrift stores, and dollar stores. When teaching abroad, you don’t have those resources so you need to find out how you can find, bribe someone, or otherwise acquire the materials you need.

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?
At my current school, I only have eight students in my classroom! I also have two hours of prep each day. I have never met a teacher in the states who can say that!

Italy Camp A field trip to Turkish Grotto

Camp Adventure in Italy: A field trip to the Turkish Grotto

What’s it like living in your current city? What’s your favorite thing about being an expat there? What is challenging?

Living as an expat with access to dollars gives me a lot of advantages. While many people in my city cannot regularly find simple necessities like toilet paper, dish soap, sugar, milk, or coffee; I can pay more at a corner store, or get one of the parents at my school to get it for me so I can pay them. I love taking salsa casino classes in Spanish, having a maid come three times a week, and all of the great travel opportunities.

Do you still get culture shock? How do you experience re-entry?

I’ve learned to just go with the flow and try to laugh things off. After returning home from Venezuela, I always feel shocked at how much of EVERYTHING we have access to! After hugging my family, my favorite thing to do is gulp down the Portland tap water. You certainly can’t do that in Venezuela!

What is a myth about your adopted country?

The biggest myth about Venezuela is that it is SOOOOOooo dangerous that U.S. citizens would definitely not want to come because they would be targets. I have been here for almost two years now, and I live my life like I would in any big city. During the day, I feel perfectly fine, and at night I take a friend with me if I want to go out.

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Cas Abou beach in Curacao

How do you spend your holidays? How often do you visit home?

I usually try to visit a country that is close to wherever I’m teaching. So far I have been able to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Argentina, Uruguay, Aruba, Curacao, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic by taking advantage of my school holidays. I usually use my summers to visit home.

When you are looking for a new job, what do you personally look for in a school and country? Has that changed from when you first started teaching?

When I first started teaching I was just looking for any job that would take me. I also really wanted to focus on learning Spanish. Now that I have been teaching abroad for four years I look for curriculum that I like teaching, grade level, classroom size, work hours, and student population. When it comes to choosing a city to work in, I am VERY open-minded. It may seem ridiculous to a lot of people, but one of the first things I look at is if a city can offer a couple of salsa classes and places to go out salsa dancing! If you can indulge in one of your passions, meet new people, and get yourself out of your compound, then it is a great thing to do! After salsa, I look for cultural activities, nearby travel destinations, and to see if it is easy to travel in that city and/or country.

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My school director, a couple other teachers and I danced Salsa Casino for Mother’s Day 2013

How do you go about making a new place your own? (That is, both your new accommodation and your new country.)

I start a routine. I find the local markets to find groceries at for weekend shopping trips, my local corner market for last-minute items, a salsa academy, and a gym I can work out at. My house starts feeling like a home once I have hung up some of the pictures I usually bring with me.

Do you ever get homesick?

I usually get homesick around the holidays and family birthdays. I try to always travel at these times because I don’t think I could just sit at home (abroad) knowing that my family was enjoying themselves without me.

How do you know when it’s time to leave?

I’m leaving my current school and it was a really hard decision to make. I love the students at my school so much and I will really miss all of the friends I have made. I know that when I get tired of doing my routine and I start daydreaming of new places that I will most likely be moving on.

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Canyoning in Merida, Venezuela

What has been your favorite teaching position/location thus far? Is there anywhere you are hoping to land a position in the future?

I really love teaching my current class of second graders and I love Venezuela, so even though I needed a change of pace, I am staying in Venezuela at another school. I would love to work in Barcelona, Rome, or any of the other big European cities. Beyond that, I have a huge list of places/schools I would like to teach at!

What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching? How has living abroad changed you?

I started my blog because I am constantly telling all of my teacher friends to get out of the US and start teaching internationally! It was the best thing I ever did and I honestly don’t think I will return to teach in the US for a very long time.



Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com 


Find the full series of Interviews with International Educators here.


If you are an international educator and you would like to be featured on The Present Perfect, contact me at thepresentperfectblog {at} gmail {dot} com.

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2 Comments on “International Educator Interviews: Amanda in Venezuela

  1. Reblogged this on Teaching Wanderlust and commented:
    My first ever interview for another blog was posted today! One of these days I want to start interviewing other international educators, but until then I will contend myself with reading interviews on The Present Perfect.

  2. I had no idea you could work at camps abroad! How cool. And l love that Amanda also went to the University of Oregon – that’s where I did my undergrad. Teaching is such a wonderful way to live all over the world.

    Thanks for participating in the #MyGlobalLife link-up!

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