Amanda Wolfenbarger

CLS Azerbaijani 2013
Baku, Azerbaijan

Currently:
University of New Mexico, Masters of Education; Middle School Science Teacher, Gallup McKinley County Schools
Albequerque, New Mexico

How did you find out about the CLS Program?
My alma mater, William and Mary, posted a link to the application on the Scholarship Facebook page.

Why did you want to study your CLS target language?
At the time I was beginning my search for opportunities to engage in international social work and found several potential programs where my study of Azerbaijani lines up with my career goals! I am looking forward to putting my Azerbaijani to use hopefully in the near future!

What are your educational and/or professional goals?
Ultimately, I am working toward a career in international social work and community development. To get there I will need a masters in social work and a lot of time in the field!

How do you plan to use your target language in the future?
I am hoping to use my Azerbaijani as often as possible. I hope to return to Azerbaijan for many programs in the future to continue to learn more about Azerbaijan and it's culture and to begin my work in international social work and community planning there.

How did participation in the CLS Program affect your life?
Personally, professionally, academically? My participation in the CLS Program has changed my life in so many ways—and all for the better! I have a new language which I continue to work and improve upon every day, I have a new corner of the planet to call home, and I have so many new friends and family to share my life and experiences with! Academically, it has encouraged me to spend more time in Azerbaijan increasing my proficiency in the language before embarking on a social work specific field in country and I am hoping to be able to do this in the near future!

What was your favorite part about studying in your host country?
The people. Azerbaijan is a beautiful country with a rich history and some great food. However, at the end of the day, it is the people of Azerbaijan that have taught me so much about the world and about professional, academic, and personal relationships between people. So much kindness offered to complete strangers, complete strangers made guests and dear friends. It is a great place to call another home!

What did you learn about your host country that you didn't know before?
So much! Azerbaijan is a country with a rich and diverse history and is home to endlessly interesting and globally important current events. Azerbaijan is at the crossroads of the east and west and has so much to offer anyone who is interested in history, politics, art, religion, and how those things are shared among societies.

Please share a short story about your CLS Program experience.
A good memory, a funny example of a time when you made a cultural or linguistic mistake and learned from it, an experience that greatly impacted you, etc.

There are so many great memories from this experience. I have wonderful memories with my host family as well as with my fellow participants. Once, a few of us went down to Lankaran. We stayed at a home stay there getting a chance to meet another Azerbaijani family. Also on our trip we went for a hike in the mountains. We were able to navigate (mostly successfully) using our Azerbaijani and we ended the adventure with tea in the mountains with a Talysh family. It was a really incredible experience!

What is your favorite target language word or phrase, and what does it mean in English?
"Göbələk"… it means mushroom… but it has to be the coolest sounding word I have ever heard. When my host sister taught me this word, I told her that it was the coolest sounding word I had ever heard—and she happily told me Azerbaijanis also love this word! It was a great language sharing experience.

Personal background
I grew up all over. I was born in Italy but mostly grew up in various places in the United States. I studied Sociology as an undergraduate. These things have given me a lot of the perspective I have on the world as an interdependent community.

Whenever possible, I find choirs to sing in. I spend my free time with my dog, Disco. Most interesting fact? I am allergic to ostriches. I love listening to other people's stories and learning about where they are coming from and where they are going!