Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Blake Yantis


Amanda is an English teacher living in Çankırı, Turkey. She graduated from Miami University in 2012 and started working in management. She decided in 2017 to take her passion for language learning to the forefront of her life.

Why did you choose this program?

I watched two of my uncles travel and teach abroad. Everyone always said how jealous they were of the adventures. I didn’t want to be jealous. I wanted my own adventure. I really appreciate the help they gave me to plan for steps to follow. There are many companies and organizations that help people teach abroad. Those are usually for recent university graduates so I needed to broaden my search. My original goal was to live in Spain, but I found a University in Turkey that seemed too good to be true. They asked me why I would want to move to Turkey. Really, I want to see the world, so why not? Looking back, it was an amazing decision. Europe is amazing, but there is so much more to see outside of Western Europe.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The university helped me with everything imaginable. I was able to talk to other American teachers about their experience with the school before I even accepted the job. Once I had accepted the job, the school really helped with everything. They started my Visa and Higher Education Council paperwork right away. They literally took care of everything from the plane ticket reimbursement, an apartment to live in, and even a packing list. We were able to email often for questions and advice. They were so helpful that I only ever felt excitement for my adventure. There was no room for worry.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The best advice that I could give anyone that wants to teach abroad is to be patient. I came from a workplace where communication and urgency are expected. There are many cultures that have a different workplace. I have learned that if it is important, they will inform you.

You are also working with many people that speak English as a second language. Make sure you understand what they mean to say. Native English speakers are very sensitive to tone and phrasing. I promise that their intentions are good. Keep an open mind because you will learn so much in your first year that you could literally write a book.

I work for a very unique language center in the university. We offer classes to the university students, but we also offer general classes to a variety of students. We are on the university schedule which gives us longer breaks so teaching nights and weekends isn’t a problem. I teach the conversation portion of each class. I work one on one with a Turkish teacher in a shared class. They provide the structure and grammar of the language. My portion is to practice that in context. It is really a lot of fun talking with the students every day. It helps me learn more about the culture that I am living in while teaching them about my own culture. My schedule is not a typical work schedule, but I really love my job.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was moving to Turkey after they had announced a travel warning to US citizens. I honestly wasn’t worried until many people questioned my safety before my trip. People always told me that I was crazy to move to such a dangerous country. I talked with other teachers living here that reassured me that Çankırı is a very safe place to live. I had to learn that danger is possible no matter where you live in the world. Living with that fear can stop you from truly living.

What is your favorite memory of your time teaching abroad?

I have many great memories with my students. Last year I taught beginner conversation English. This was extremely challenging because the students had never had the opportunity to speak with a native speaker before. Their vocabulary was low. They were true beginners. I was able to see them grow and develop more every week. This also gave me an opportunity to help correct idioms. As we know idioms do not always translate well.

One day, we were discussing people descriptions. I had used a picture of Marilyn Monroe for the students to describe with their new vocabulary. We would generally describe her figure as curvy or something similar. The similar phrase in Turkish is an idiom, ‘balık etli,’ or in other words fish meat. To my students this sounded quite normal even after translating it into English. They were all persistent saying, ‘Marilyn Monroe is fish meat, teacher!’ I had to explain to my students that in English you shouldn’t describe a woman using the term fish or fish meat. We all laughed and learned. I wouldn’t have gotten the good memories like this if I hadn’t traveled.