Lessons Learned After Living 5 Years as an Expat

Dear Family & Friends,

Today is the last day of school of my fifth year of international teaching!  While I miss you all dearly, I have largely enjoyed my five years of life overseas.

Mexico, China, and Venezuela have all been lovely places to live in one way or another. I’ve had amazing experiences, visited extraordinary sights, and learned a few important lessons along the way.

Me at Chichen Itza during Spring Break 2011

Me at Chichen Itza during Spring Break 2011

Mexico

It was here that I first began my overseas journey. I fell in love with international teaching in Mexico.

Lesson: Value my time and make sure I take a job where I make more than $1000 a month!

Me on the Great Wall of China 2012

Me on the Great Wall of China 2012

China

I had the chance to explore a little bit of Asia and learned some important lessons (which I will mention below).

Lesson: Do not let the dollar signs of a new job sway my better thinking. I learned what I am truly looking for in an international teaching job while I was in China.

Enjoying the beach in Venezuela 2013

Enjoying the beach in Venezuela 2013

Venezuela

I finally found a country where I wanted to stay for a good chunk of time! So far I’ve spent three years here, and I’ve signed on for another year (and hope to stay at least two years after that).

Lesson: While a country might be labeled “dangerous”, “no travel”, or (being very nice) simply “difficult”, a certain type of person just might enjoy living there anyway.

10 Other Lessons I’ve Learned Somewhere Along the Way:

  1. Always read an employment contract carefully.
  2. Research, research, research! Find out about the country, the city, and the school that you will potentially be working at BEFORE you sign the contract.
  3. Money is not the most important factor when choosing a job- even if you have a mountain of student loan debt!
  4. Make friends with locals if you really want to learn about a culture.
  5. Try to learn some of the local language if you want to have a bit of an easier time.
  6. Don’t be afraid to put your heart on the line even if you know that you might not be staying in one place for very long.
  7. Use your host country as a travel base, but also be sure to explore as much as you can within the country too.
  8. Try out a new grade because it just might be exactly what you were looking for.
  9. Eat like the locals do.
  10. Keep learning by trying new things, taking new classes, eating new foods, going outside of your comfort zone, and getting to know yourself better.

I have absolutely no intention of quitting this lifestyle. While it has its ups and downs like everything in life, the life of an international teacher is exactly what I was dreaming of and I don’t ever want it to stop!

Are you a long term expat? Do you plan on living overseas for an extended period of time? What is a lesson that you learned along the way? 

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24 responses to “Lessons Learned After Living 5 Years as an Expat

  1. I have loved International Teaching too! Living abroad is a great experience and I look forward to following your insights. Glad you are staying in Venez! Sounds fab! Good on you! Have a great holiday, see you out in the world sometime! 🙂 xx Cheers to living your dream!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Its a pretty good gig but it has its drawbacks. Continual displacement can be tough sometimes. But now that I have no immediate family connections it might be easier for me to go again one day. I am happy in Perth for now, but yes you are right, it is a great lifestyle, and a great way to see the world. I think i would like to get into Europe or Argentina. That would be cool! have you seen my blog posts recently? I am travelling in Canada and have just been to Alaska which was great! x

        Liked by 1 person

      • I would love to teach in Europe or Buenos Aires one day! I haven’t had a chance to read any blogs since last Thursday. The last post of your that I read you were in Vancouver- I love that place!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Its harder to keep track when we are travelling! I am writing lots though and have 3 post scheduled right now…! I just love writing my blog so much, and meeting other great people like you! Where are you now? I knew you were travelling too!

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  2. I really loved what you said/learned about Venezuela. And this post is perfect timing for me because I’m wanting to interview expat bloggers and I wonder if you’d like to participate? I don’t see contact info on your site, but maybe I missed it. In any case, please email me if you are interested

    And am I long term expat? Hells yeah. 5 years right with you, baby 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoy life abroad. I can’t even imagine living long term back in the U.S. at least for a very long time. The perks of living abroad have been more favorable and enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes I think that I don’t need to move back to the US until I retire…then I think that I should just retire in a country with a lower cost of living (Ecuador & Malaysia come to mind). Who knows?!

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  4. I also love international teaching and have no end date in sight! I have also found a place I want to spend more than one school year in which I never thought would happen! We have to do what makes us happy! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Hey sorry I just saw this! I am living in Catalonia, Spain in a small city called Tarragona, it really is beautiful and life is too good here to leave. I actually have a friend here from Venezuela and he said he also wants to stay here for as long as he can because of the problems. It sounds like a wonderful place despite this and from what I can see from your blog!

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      • I checked out some pictures of your current city and I can see why you would want to stay. Tarragona is gorgeous!

        I would like to stay here in Venezuela for another 1-2 years (putting me at five years in Venezuela). I am promising myself more beach time this year and I am working hard to convince my family and friends to come visit.

        Sadly, most locals I know want to get out of Venezuela as soon as possible and stay out until the political and economic situation has improved.

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  5. I love this. 😀 And your journey so far sounds so similar to mine. Haha

    I’m in my 3rd year of teaching/living abroad as an expat. I lived & taught in Mexico for a year and a half and, yes, I came out of there with the lesson that I really needed a job where I could make more than $1000 a month.

    Now I’m living and teaching in Korea. I’ve been here for just under a year and a half and I’ve definitely learned that the dollar signs shouldn’t sway you. 😛

    I’m actually in the middle of planning a backpacking trip through Central/South America once I’ve finished my contract here and that’s why I found your blog. I’m hoping to stay and find a teaching job in whichever country/place I pass through that I end up loving. 🙂

    I do love this lifestyle. You learn so much from the new cultures and people. And I definitely don’t intend on quitting it any time soon either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would love to be able to take a sabbatical one of these years and just travel the world for six months to a year! I think you can always find a teaching job (or at least tutoring) wherever you go. The only thing is that it might not be a great job. It will help you travel a bit longer though!

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  6. I really love this post and your blog in general! My husband and I are just getting ready to start our first jobs as international teachers in Turkey and it’s so helpful to read the experiences of people who have done it before. I’m sure there are many lessons in store for us.

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  7. Pingback: Fish out of water: expat bloggers interview series #3 | Life, the Universe and Lani·

  8. Hey, Amanda!

    I just wanted to write a quick note saying that I love your site! I found you while looking for advice on an upcoming trip to the DR, and I’m so glad I did. I’m moving to South Korea to teach English after graduation in May and I am so very excited, especially after learning that there is salsa dancing in Seoul! Salsa is my lifeblood as well, (though my other passion is chocolate making!) and I am so looking forward to earning some money and figuring out if I like teaching English abroad as much as I like it in the US. I’m excited to read more about your adventures over the coming years! Have a great year. 🙂

    Max

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