Amber is a kind of gemstone which symbolizes strength and courage. This meaningful name really suits her – a young person who has traveled through more than 20 countries around the world with a lot of experience. However, when we met and had a direct conversation with Amber Marie Wilson – an English teacher of Foreign Languages Specialized School, we realized that she not only has the courage of amber but also much more than that.
1. Full name: Amber Marie Wilson
2. Year of birth: 1990
3. Zodiac sign: Aries
4. Hometown Denver, CO, USA
5. Academic title: Bachelors of Arts & Science in English and Anthropology
6. Arrived in Vietnam in June 2016
Why did you choose to travel around the world and teach students in different countries instead of having a steady career in America?
Teaching actually wasn’t something that I thought I was going to be doing for my career long term. I used to work as a writing instructor and a writer at a fashion company for more than 2 years. I got a job teaching Writing in Korea so I thought it would be a great opportunity to continue working on writing skills but also getting to see the world. What I didn’t expect is how much I would fall in love with teaching. Then I came to Vietnam and I really enjoy the culture here, so after going back to America to see my family, I decided I would comeback to Vietnam and get a job teaching here. One of the motivation is that i want to bring something to the table. Some English teacher don’t take English seriously. I knew I have a lot to learn while working with different countries, different students that I can hope to bring better things back for them.
Is it true that your traveling habits was passed down on to you by your family?
My grandmother has always said that I took after my grandfather who unfortunately I’ve never met because he passed away before I was born. But she said that both of us have edgy feet, we always have to be on the go. My grandfather actually was in the army so the reason he traveled so much was to complete the missions from the government and I think he is kind of being addicted to that. So I think I take after him more than my parents. I’m not so afraid of the unknown situations, I’m not a creature of comfort, I like being in different places.
Can you share a little about the time you move to Vietnam?
When I was travelling to Hanoi, I have just left Korea. Korea is somewhere really strict and stressful, while my personality is to put lots of pressure on myself, I can be uptight to make things done certainly. So when I was backpacking to leave Korea, I seemed to put down some weight off my shoulder. Vietnam is totally different. Things work out naturally and I even don’t know why. There’s no subway system here, I don’t know how to catch the bus but I always get to anywhere I want at the end
I bet that is the most common thing many foreigners can identify. You must have faced up to some problems at the first time in our country, didn’t you?
I was taking a bus to Ninh Binh. We came to the travel agency 30 minutes earlier to book a bus without a phone to call. No one’s there. After a long time, the bus showed up and the travel agent asked me: “You’re going back to Hoi An, right?”. Then he realized his mistake. All of a sudden, he came back with his car, carried our luggage, headed to a highway and took us to a bus in the middle of nowhere. It stressed me out. It’s something I’ve never thought that I would be comfortable with and then coming to a place with such an acceptance.
You seemed to have a great deal of experience with cultural shock wherever you come for the first time.
Yes, it reminds me of the time I was in India. I was walking along the river and taking a picture of the sunset while a family was nearby. Then, someone grab my hand and pull me to their family photo. They passed me their baby to hold and I was surrounded by professional photographers while the whole family tried to get the baby’s attention. There’s a time that I even stood in the middle of the family for a pose. They laughed at me when I tried to take a photo with a cow (I’m a weird one) *laugh*
In your opinion, what is the difference between Vietnamese students and students in other countries that you have taught?
I know most students, especially in Asian countries, are under a lot of pressure from their parents but the approach Korea takes to that is a little bit different from it is in Vietnam. In Korea, often times if I did educational activity kind of disguise it as a game, parents would want a lot more homework for students. In Vietnam I see a little bit less. I see Vietnamese students being a little bit more late back until the final results come out. *laugh* That’s one of the major differences I see. With American students that I’ve worked with, high school students have difficulties in understanding why they have to study subjects that may not acquire to them. This is caused by the fact that we do focus so much on Liberal Education that they only want to go into their skill they want to, instead of other specific subject.
Is there anything from one of your majors in Colorado University – Anthropology – that you apply to your teaching?
The best thing applied from Anthropology is to respect different culture and to be the best teacher I could be. Not only do we know what the culture prefer but we also can bring something new to it. If I go back to US to teach my future students, I could bring something from Korea, Vietnam and also other countries which I want my students to know.
I believe that your intention can help students avoid misunderstandings like prejudices or cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation in USA is hot term right now. There are lots of conversations about that issue. We should all consider the fact that something is taken quite far in the US. Most things are pendelum, swing from this side to the other, it takes time to stay in the middle.
Due to your emperical works, what are some of the vital factors to adapt to new overseas environment, especially for students want to study abroad?
Respect towards culture is achievable and supportive to emerge yourself in a whole new atmosphere. You might get frustrating with the culture first, it’s understandable, but don’t treat people poorly. Another factor is the willingness to learn. I’ve met some people who struggled with travelling. The trip doesn’t live up to their expectation, they don’t want to learn and discover people or history of their destination. That’s a waste you can’t look on good things to learn yourself.
Regarding the unprecedented part in the curriculum of 11th grade – English Literature, how do you think about the effectiveness of this new approach for students?
At first, I was given the criteria which generally focused on critical thinking. There are so many things so get critical analysis and literature is one of them. Literature is written for purpose: authors ask themselves “What will I do today?”, they use material of real situation and come up with their own solution. Although students started with a sheer panic, they did so much better than they expected. They are able to work out things themselves to see the meaning and apply some lessons to their lives and aware of the reality. Some of the student’s reflections confided that they looked at literature in a different way thanks to our task of literary analysis. We can take example of “There will come soft rain” – a novel about technology and its future danger. Some students thought that nature overcome everything at the end while the other didn’t. Thanks to convincing evidence and explanation, they created excellent arguments and equally well-read paper.
You’ve travelled to so many places and become teacher in some countries, you seem to reach your life goals so far, right?
Actually, my biggest goal to know who I am and what I want to bring to the world. The last year in university helped me to know who I was meant to be. Then I realized how important is travelling, meeting people and share our knowledge. Once I can figure out who I will see myself, I will settle down and have a PhD, become a college professor, and share ideas with students. I’m really close to that goal!
Thank you for spending time with us and we will always remember your dedication and friendliness in CNN . We wish you all the best in the future, especially the latest destination – Myanmar!
Read the Vietnamese translation here