Miranda’s dream was always to travel to Asia and in March 2021, that dream came true. Miranda packed her bags focused on teaching in Cambodia. Even the global pandemic wasn’t going to stop her. Read Miranda’s story to learn about the process of traveling during COVID-19, Cambodia’s quarantine hotel process and how made friends.
Hi Miranda! Can you tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background, what made you consider teaching in Cambodia?
It began off as a brand new start for me and wanting to get to know the educational system in Southeast Asia. And to also get to know a different culture that I can learn from to become a better educator/friend. I have always wanted to travel and make my way to Asia and thanks to the teaching in Cambodia internship, I am finally living my dream. I have been given great direction and the opportunity to live my dream and start making a difference as an educator. This also helps me with getting experience for my BSA program in ‘Special Education/Dual Teaching’. Going out into the field requires a lot more persistence than writing a paper on “What can be done in the classroom.” But hey! At least I’m able to put some of my knowledge to use when going out in the field.
You traveled to Cambodia in March 2021 during the Covid pandemic. What was it like and what preparations did you undertake in order to travel?
It was a huge adventure within itself because originally I left from Albuquerque New Mexico. Then I was delayed in the state of Washington because one of our flights was about 45 minutes late. From there, I went to LA, and we had a three-hour delay. Then I got on the Singapore flight and arrived in Singapore. Gave them all the documentation that they needed. Then I finally arrived in Cambodia. When I arrived in Cambodia, it was a little adventure as well. I gave them my quarantine money and then they kept my passport for two weeks. I find this weird because other countries aren’t doing that. I had a mouth swab and nose swab and then I went to one of the hotels. I don’t remember what it was called. I should have done my research about the weather. I am super comfortable when it comes to cold weather like 60 degrees, but not so much in really hot weather. When I came here it was close to 105 degrees so it was very hot and humid and it reminded me of Texas.
In total, I think I had to take four COVID tests. Each state in the United States has its own criteria when it comes to running the test sites for COVID. When I got to Cambodia, I got COVID tested before entering the mystery hotel quarantine. and on the 13th day. I left on the 16th day of quarantine.
Can you tell us your experience of entering Cambodia? Did you need to quarantine? Can you share some information about it?
My experience was fairly good I got here at around 11:00 p.m. There were about 13 people on my flight. Picked up our luggage from the luggage area and then we went down to paper quarantine expenses. That’s when a mystery bus picked us up and sent us all to the same hotel after the banks counted our money and did COVID testing. I found being in quarantine for 14 to 16 days very peaceful. I got a lot done, I started working out again and my boss David kept in contact with me every day. He also sent me information that I needed to look at before I started teaching. I finally met David on day 16 when I left quarantine. I felt a lot more at ease when I moved into the teaching house. I met the teachers in the house. I spoke with them here and there. Being a professional educator and volunteer for Cambodia, one of the students got me a private tutoring job with one of the banks which was pretty amazing.
Were you able to teach in a classroom or was it online because of the pandemic?
While teaching in Cambodia, I taught online. I did find it a little bit easier to teach online due to the given circumstances. I learned a lot from the students that I taught as well. They taught me about their culture, about who they are, and what type of teacher they are looking for. I met some of my students’ wonderful families via zoom. Some of them told me about the goals they had for their children which was pretty amazing. With the students, we read from books and did so many different activities that they seemed to enjoy. A lot of my student’s favorite musical artists to listen to were Bruno Mars and George Strait. Some days we even got musical and sang a couple of songs from their favorite artists. A lot of my younger students looked up to their parents for more than just moral support. Some of my older students even taught me about the language and history of Cambodia as well. So there was a bit of teaching from both sides.
What were the best parts of your TEFL course experience? Do you feel like it prepared you for teaching in Cambodia?
I do believe that working with my TEFL internship did open a lot of doors for me to work in Cambodia. It also better prepared me for the culture and the education that is taught here. An international school called AGPS hired me because I had TEFL experience and experience teaching kids English as a second language. I do find for private tutoring jobs, it’s word of mouth from either the students or teachers that I have previously taught at ‘Conversations with Foreigners’ which I have been forever grateful for.
What were three things about your experience teaching in Cambodia that you did not anticipate? (This helps future teachers preparing for a trip there to feel more ready!)
One of the main ones is if you have tattoos you have to cover them up because it is against cultural norms. Please do your research about the type of weather in Cambodia because, like myself, you may not be ready for the humid weather. But if you’re used to that type of weather it’ll be a piece of cake for you. Finally, do your research about where you may want to go to teach because the more you know about the culture and the people, the more you will fit right in and make friends and become a lot happier with your choice.
What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher abroad?
I got to know more about the Muslim and Buddhist cultures here in Cambodia and how they work together in a very peaceful manner with one another. Both religious cultures come together to help bring a sense of comfort and light for their future generations. I love seeing the Buddhist Monks in town. I have also helped some of my students understand my culture and where I come from as well. Helping to take care of your student’s education helps to further open doors and leaves a lifelong positive experience for students and families who are curious about the English language. As a teacher here, I also find it very rewarding to be interested in what the students tell you because they are also very keen on who is there to help them and who isn’t.
How did you make friends during your internship? Did you attend any social events?
I actually met a couple of friends during my quarantine and they both went home but for the time being. They were here for about two to three months. We went out to restaurants while abiding by the COVID pandemic rules and regulations. I have also made a lot of local friends and they are the sweetest and kindest people that I have ever met. The friends I do have here in Cambodia speak with me on social media and then we’ll go out together once a week. We’ll just catch up on our lives or just talk about anything in general. I’ve also attended some birthday events with some of the teachers that I am working with at AGPS. They are small birthdays but they have been super fun. A lot of the teachers that I work with are from different cultural backgrounds and like to help steer me in the right direction when it comes to teaching.
What were your three favorite trips during your time teaching in Cambodia?
I have yet to go to see Angkor Wat Temple or go on trips to different provinces because of the whole COVID situation, but I have learned a lot about Cambodia and its rich history from a lot of my students that I taught at ‘Conversations with Foreigners’. I would like to go out and explore once the restrictions on traveling have eased up a little bit more and I don’t have to pay quarantine prices and quarantine for 14 – 16 days.
We hear you’re still teaching in Cambodia. What made you stay in Cambodia when you finished your internship?
I recently got a contract at one of the top three leading international schools. The school that I am currently teaching at is called American Global Prep School (AGPS). I am currently a first-grade teacher and I teach subjects ranging from English to History. We teach in Cambridge and US educational teaching. Getting to know the culture and the locals made me want to stay here for a bit longer. I would also like to get to know the Buddhist religion a little bit more. I have finally made it to a place where everyone is so nice and grateful for just the little things. I like being in a place where crime isn’t an issue and that was a huge culture shock to me because I come from a place where crime outranks everything else in the state.
What advice do you have for someone on the fence about whether to teach abroad in Cambodia?
I would say just go out and experience life and experience education and teaching in another culture. Those experiences help to shape who you are and what goals that you may have in the near future. Remember, money can always come back but traveling/memories are a different story. You are the only person that can put your foot through the door to make this type of decision.
Finally, what does the future hold for Miranda?
For now, I will continue teaching in Cambodia. Then probably go teach in China or another place in Asia to help with my teaching and educational portfolio. I also love learning about history and other parts of Asia and seeing everyday-to-day life and interacting with the locals and making friends. I love teaching and the joy it brings me. It’s so rewarding to see my students learn from a solid foundation that they can take as an experience throughout life. Teachers need to be a positive impact on those who strive for better education and positive life experiences.