#TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Sandra Kennedy has traveled extensively in China, Tibet, Europe, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, United States, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands. She taught eight years for American Internationals Schools in Paris, Lima, and Lisbon.

A dream of hers was to combine travel, photography, and writing. After teaching internationally and nationally, she began her career as a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Oregon. After retiring from international and national teaching, she reinvented herself as a travel writer. At age 60, she took a solo trip to Buenos Aires for a travel writing class.Her first article, Living like a Local, was about renting an historical apartment in Buenos Aires.

Her articles have been published in International Living Magazine, Transitions Abroad, LuxuryLatinAmerica, The Times Newspaper, Travel World Magazine, 40 plus Travel and Leisure (UK), Oregon.com, Adventure-Life Journeys, and others. She is a member of NATJA, IFWTWA, International Travel Writers, and Publishers Association.


Sandra Kennedy in Quito, Ecuador.  #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Quito, Ecuador


What motivated your decision to teach abroad?

After my first year of teaching in Southern California, I spent the summer traveling in Western Europe.

I remember flying into London’s Heathrow Airport and arriving at night. I spent my first night in a B&B. I woke around 5am. My adrenalin was racing as I tried to open the bed and breakfast’s front door. It was locked until 7am. At 7am, I burst through the unlocked door. My world changed.

After 3 months exploring France, England, Germany, and Austria, I returned to my teaching position in California. People were the same. I had changed. I thought, “How can people stay here when there is a whole world to explore?”

My worldview changed. I made a vow to teach in Europe. I never veered from my dream while I researched overseas schools and job seeking methods for American International Schools.


Sandra Kennedy. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!


How did you choose where to go?

After Job Fairs in London and New York, I was offered a teaching position at Colegio Roosevelt in Lima, Peru for 1 year. It was considered a “hardship post”. At age 29, my dream to teach internationally was coming true after seven years of planning.

My second teaching position was near Lisbon, Portugal for 3 years. Finally, I made it to Europe.

After Portugal, I secured a position at the American School of Paris for 4 years.


Sandra Kennedy. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Quito at night


How did you find your job?

I found my Peru teaching position by attending the CIE (Council of International Education) Conference held in London, England.

I found my Portugal teaching position by attending the ISS (International Schools Services) Conference held in New York City.

I found my Paris position by writing the Headmaster. Afterwards, I flew from Portugal to Paris for an interview. I got the job.


What was your experience like?

Teaching overseas was living life to its fullest. In Peru, I taught 18 fourth graders who were motivated to learn. Their parents referred to me as “Professora.” I was treated with respect and they wanted to help in anyway possible. Previously, I taught 40 fifth graders in California. I was in teaching heaven while in Peru.

While teaching in overseas schools, my life centered on the school community. Expectations are very high by parents, teachers and administrators.

Teaching with like-minded adventurous colleagues added to the community spirit. We had parties, dinners, trips together and individually.

While in Peru, I backpacked on local busses, trains and on foot. I traveled to the Galapagos Islands while it was relatively undiscovered; explored Machu Picchu, Cusco, Arequipa, Naza Lines, Lima, and took the bus from Lima into Ecuador where I caught a supply canoe on a tributary of the Amazon.


Sandra Kennedy, Ecuadorian Amazon. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Ecuadorian Amazon


In Portugal, a villa was converted into the school. Parents worked at NATO, Embassies, and international businesses. I lived in Cascais, a lovely town near Lisbon. My narrow 10-foot wide home was built into old castle walls. I traveled throughout Portugal, Spain, and neighboring countries. I loved Portugal.

In Paris, highly ambitious parents required the best from their children and teachers. The class list of student nationalities read like a world atlas. Class sizes ran around 20 students. The staff was equally talented and creative. One of our 5th grade field trips was a weeklong train trip to Brittany for a week. Travel opportunities exploded within Paris and throughout Europe.


What are some of your favorite memories?

In Peru, I created a caste system within my class for our India unit. I wanted these privileged fourth-graders to become more sensitive to children living in poor barrios. Students corresponded with Peruvian children from the barrios. Towards the culmination of the unit, I arranged for parents to transport us to meet their pen pal friends. They created a lunch and we exchanged friendships. My fourth-graders experienced how others in the world live.

In Paris, I developed a Medieval Faire for fifth-graders and their families. At the end of our study, we spent a day wearing costumes with plays, dancing, and singing in our decorated auditorium. Parents created a medieval feast. This Faire continues today.

Skiing downhill near crevasses in the Alps at Chamonix, France. Christmas in a small village near Vienna.

Driving around Paris in my red Renault, 2-cylinder convertible.


Sandra Kennedy - my CV2 (two cylinder car) in Paris. I taught in the American International School for 4 years! This CV2 made it over the Alps, in and around Paris. I loved driving it. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

My CV2 (two cylinder car) in Paris. I taught in the American International School for 4 years! This CV2 made it over the Alps, in and around Paris. I loved driving it.


Dancing on a converted barge on the Seine.

Swimming from ship to shore in the Galapagos.

Home cooked meal with rural Portuguese family after stomping grapes.

Machu Picchu wandering with no other people at the site.

Dugout canoe rides on Ecuadorian Amazon; swimming with piranhas. After a 6-hour local bus ride, I slept in a jungle hotel for $1.00. I waited the day for a supply canoe heading to other villages along the river.

And, so many more adventures…


Sandra Kennedy - Semana Santa in Antigua,Guatemala. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Semana Santa in Antigua,Guatemala.


…and challenges?

Teaching in high-powered schools can be stressful.

Each school day, riding a student-filled school bus for 30 minutes to and from Colegio Roosevelt, Peru.

Political coup in Lima with curfew at 10pm. Two shots were warnings. If a third gunfire shot was heard, someone was wounded or killed. School was closed down early and teachers were required to accompany students to their homes on school bus.

Creating creative, stimulating challenges for students each week.

On two occasions, students never returned due to the assassination of their ambassador parents.

Flexibility in learning cultures, languages, meeting high-powered people, and remaining sensitive to less fortunate, especially in Peru.


Sandra Kennedy in  Banos, Ecuador. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Banos, Ecuador


What skills did you develop from your experience?

I learned to meet people from all walks of life.

Ability to develop creative and challenging teacher units.

Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

Embracing cultures from around the world.


Do you feel changed from your teaching experience abroad?

Absolutely. They were the best years of my life. It fostered a love of travel that has continued throughout my life.


Sandra Kennedy with ROW rafting company on the Rogue River, Oregon. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!

Sandra Kennedy with ROW rafting company on the Rogue River, Oregon


Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?

Yes, it is reflected in my continuing desire to travel and learn cultures. My teaching experiences overseas helped me get other teaching jobs in Vermont and Oregon. It helped me adapt to very different circumstances.


Any advice for teachers wanting to teach overseas?

Determination and persistence are essential. The competition for overseas jobs is stiff. Usually, you need to start planning a year in advance. Previous teaching experience is valuable. Be flexible. Be willing to start in a less desirable country. Be creative in your approaches during Job Fairs. Believe in yourself.

You will experience culture shock. Remember, you will soon feel part of your community and school. Be prepared to work hard and enjoy your travels.


Sandra Kennedy. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!


How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

My experiences with other cultures opened my mind to creative approaches. I feel like a citizen of the world.


Travels with Sandra Kennedy. #TeachAbroadBecause You will Live Life Fully!


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

I want to begin a book about my life.

I have written a book, Teach and Travel, about getting a teaching job at American International Schools, but Penguin Books felt it had too limited an audience. I have been updating it.




All photos courtesy and copyright Sandra Kennedy