Teaching Overseas in Azerbaijan, Venezuela, and More

So many sights to see when teaching overseas.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina was Amanda’s first taste of gigantic waterfalls.

Teaching Traveling: Readers, get psyched to learn how one woman taught abroad in Azerbaijan, Japan, Italy, and now Venezuela! Welcome, Amanda. Tell us a bit about your background.

Amanda: I’m from Portland, Oregon, USA. I have been teaching since 2009, but I have been teaching overseas since I 2010. Before teaching I was a social worker and research assistant.

My international teaching career started with internships in Japan and Italy over the course of two summers. I was also an ESL volunteer teacher in Azerbaijan for four months.

Currently I am teaching second grade at an international school in Venezuela. I will be returning to Venezuela to teach for a third year but I will be relocating to a bigger city only 20 minutes from the Caribbean!

Amanda at Carnival in Trinidad with some friends.
Amanda at Carnival in Trinidad with some friends.

TT: Amazing! Tell us more about your travels.

A: Over my December break this school year, I went to see Angel Falls (the tallest waterfall in the world). To get there I had to take three planes, including this little airplane (I love tiny planes!) that only had 20 seats and landed in the middle of the jungle.

I had never before visited an airport in a jungle! The airport had a thatched roof made from local trees and did not have any walls. There were no loudspeakers, only a small man who would point to you when your flight arrived.

Amanda on the Great Wall of China.
Amanda on the Great Wall of China.

The camp I was staying at sent a jeep to pick up my friend and I and then brought us up the road and upriver further into the jungle. Once there we were greeted with welcome punch and brought to our cabins in the jungle. They were simple but the view of the river couldn’t be beat!

The next few days were spent boating and hiking to and around various waterfalls. Finally we were taken by boat two and half hours upstream to our basecamp with a view of Angel Falls. We had enough light to explore for a couple of hours and have dinner before retiring early so that we could wake up bright and early for a hike to the top of Angel Falls.

The local guide led us through the jungle paths, showing us spiders, local plants, and pointing out a couple of birds, and then the long hike to the top began. Whew! It was seemingly straight up a “path” of roots, rocks, and other forest debris. It was worth it once we got to the falls and were finally able to play in the water and take in all of the sights.

I will never forget that trip!

Chichen Itza ruins in Yucatan, Mexico inspire awe.
Chichen Itza ruins in Yucatan, Mexico inspire awe.

TT: How did you find your teaching abroad opportunity?

A: I got into international teaching because I was researching the best careers that would enable me to travel and see the world. I think I used www.TIEOnline.com to find my first overseas teaching job at an international school.

TT: How did you find the money to fund this travel?

A: My schools always have paid for my airfare to my host country and from there my salary easily pays for any expeditions I go on during the year.

Amanda's favorite thing to do on vacation is hunt down tropical beaches. This one is Playa Macao in the Dominican Republic.
Amanda’s favorite thing to do on vacation is hunt down tropical beaches. This one is Playa Macao in the Dominican Republic.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.

A: When I was volunteering in Azerbaijan I remember that the floors had missing planks and were covered in dust, the blackboard had holes in it, chalk was hard to find, and the room was completely bare of any teaching materials.

At first I was hesitant to teach in such an unfamiliar teaching environment, but those kids were the most enthusiastic and the most determined students that I have ever had. It was this group of students who convinced me that I would one day become a full-time international teacher.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

TT: How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?

A: I have only been teaching abroad for the past four years, but I am convinced that I want to do this for the rest of my life. It is so amazing to be able to experience this mix of cultures and languages in my classroom.

It is great fun for my students and I to compare the places we have lived and the different countries we have visited. My students are all very worldly and well-traveled. I feel like I am constantly learning every day I go to work!

TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?

A: I travel without any family and friends so I have learned to become very self-sufficient and independent. Like many people away from home for long periods, I get lonely and wish I had a family who wanted to travel the world with me.

I have learned to quickly make friends wherever I go and to rely on the internet to keep my family and friends all around the world close to my heart.

TT: What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?

A: If you are wondering about what life is like for an international teacher you can check out my blog at teachingwanderlust.com/. However, the best advice I have is to just get out there and do it already!

TT: Thanks so much, Amanda! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?

Amanda's first internship abroad was in Japan 2005. This pic is with some friends in Kyoto at the Kinkaku-ji Temple.
Amanda’s first internship abroad was in Japan 2005. This pic is with some friends in Kyoto at the Kinkaku-ji Temple.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Overseas in Azerbaijan, Venezuela, and More”

  1. Amanda,
    Thanks for sharing, as I enjoyed reading about your travels. I love the northern coast of South America along the beautiful Caribbean and would love to teach Special Education in this area. Do you know what Special ed is like in general in the region? I’ve been teaching for four years at an alternative school in NC, working with children with behavioral/emotional/mental health needs. Any helpful info you could pass along would be great!
    Thanks and Good Luck,
    Jason G

    • Special Ed in Venezuela is rare. There are teachers who are certified to teach SPED, but they are generally in a mainstream classroom providing help when they can. There are counselor positions at many of the international schools but these positions usually go to people who are fluent in Spanish. I would look at the bigger schools in Caracas if you are serious about continuing in a special education class.


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