Staff Spotlight: Aunge Thomas


Andrea "Aunge" Thomas grew up loving the outdoors in Idaho. Her passion for the skiing, hiking and the rivers led her to Bozeman, MT to study Civil Engineering. After graduating from Montana State University in 2004, Aunge traveled internationally, taught skiing and guided on local rivers for three years. During these adventures, she discovered her interest in experiential education. She apprenticed at High Mountain Institute for a semester before starting with The Traveling School. Aunge is now the Dean of Students for The Traveling School and works to share the power of international education with teenagers. Aunge believes education is a continual process and students will thrive when they push forward to learn through new opportunities while gaining a better sense of the world.

What position do you hold at The Traveling School? What has been your career path so far?

I am currently the Dean of Students for The Traveling School. In this position, I oversee the programs while they are in session, develop curriculum and maintain relations with current and past families. I love the variety of my job and knowing that every day will be different.

I started teaching with TTS in Spring of 2010 on a South America semester and taught three additional semesters in Africa. For two Africa semesters, I also worked as the Logistical Program Director, balancing my teaching responsibilities with the logistical needs of the trip. I was the Academic Program Director on my final semester which involved overseeing the academic portion of the program. When I wasn’t away with a program, I worked in the office as the Head of the Math Department developing our three curriculums. The variety of roles within the school helped me move forward with the school and begin my new position as the Dean of Students.

Did you study abroad in high school?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I waited until college to study abroad. I became fascinated with the idea of traveling to learn in high school, but decided to wait until college to do an exchange program. I was inspired to study abroad by pictures, stories and overall excitement from those who returned. Even as a college exchange student I learned and embraced a new sense of adventure and sense of self. Living abroad in one spot for an extended amount of time provided me a nuanced and lasting impression on the international community.

What does the future hold for The Traveling School - any exciting new programs to share?

The Traveling School continually tweaks our programs to embrace new opportunities. Although we don’t foresee changing our main itineraries in the next year, we may make slight alterations to visit new locations slightly off our path to study new parts of the South American rainforests or work with NGO’s focused on intertwining soccer and education in Africa. Based on our continual evolution as experiential educators each program is slightly different, which makes it unique and inspiring.

What about the future of the high school abroad industry? How do you think international education will change over the next 10 years?

I believe international education opportunities will continue to grow and diversify in the next 10 years. As parents discover the positive impact of study abroad programs, they are more likely to encourage their teenagers to participate. Likewise, teenagers are curious to see the world and they are discovering opportunities to delve into new opportunities. As students become more aware of the global community and how it impacts their lives at home, they find inspiration to create new educational paths. The study abroad industry is responsive to this curiosity and should expand to meet the needs of a more diversified clientele. I also believe more people are recognizing the power of experiential eduction and are willing to take the risk to share this type of education with students to create more opportunities for academics outside of the typical classroom.