Reflections on Living Abroad

An old acquaintance sent me some questions about living internationally for an assignment he is doing for his university study. It gave me a chance to reflect on the choice of me living outside of the USA for most of my life.

  1. Where do you live, or did you live? For how long?
    1. I live in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I arrived in July 2019. I am a long-term expatriate who has lived in Colombia, Bolivia, Australia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Serbia and Japan for over 25 years.
  • What do you do there? Work/type of work or are you a student.
    • I am a director of an international school.
  • What made decide to live abroad?
    • Wanderlust; novel experiences; escape the ordinary life (to me at the time) of rural Michigan
  • What was the process to move like?  Complicated? What sacrifices did you make to move?
    • The schools that I worked for helped with the moving process, which was complicated but once you do it a couple of times, it is much less daunting. You lose extended family and old friends when you move abroad. This is somewhat less so with today’s communication technology, but it is not the same as living near relatives.
  • How long did it take to learn the language or did you already?
    • I do not have a gift for languages so it is always a struggle. Most of my work is in English but through my years working in Latin America, I consider myself fluent in Spanish. My Serbian/Russian is improving and I can get by quite well. I didn’t have enough time to learn much Japanese which I regret.
  • How far did you assimilate into the local culture? Did you live right in with the locals or are you staying close to other English-speaking nationalities? Do you have an immigration status there? Do you use their social programs like healthcare?
    • Living in a foreign country long-term is different than visiting the country. However, working at an international school you are somewhat in the expatriate “bubble” and it takes effort to connect with local culture. Some countries are more difficult than others to connect with. There may be religious, linguistic, economic barriers that make it harder to truly experience a local culture. It is also different today than when I first went overseas in 1992 with the internet. We have our VPN with Netflix, HBO and Sling subscriptions and it feels like we consume the same media as Americans. This was not the case when I first moved to Colombia.
    • I am politically liberal/left I think in big part to seeing health care and higher education in other countries. I think it is a shame that all Americans do not have access to good health care and that university is so expensive. It is making me strongly consider never moving back to the USA, especially in my retirement years.
  • Are you still participating or up to date with what is going on in the United States?
    • Very much so, it is easy to follow the news in the USA. My lifestyle however is significantly different than if I was an educator in the USA. I am a registered voter in my home state of Michigan.
  • Do you have plans to ever live in the United States again.
    • No plans but if the right opportunity came up, I would consider it.
  • If you could sharing a funny or interesting story about something you had to adjust to when you moved there.
    • Every country has its unique characteristics. Uzbekistan is very laid back and the people are gentle and open-minded, not the image that is in the media when you hear about “the ‘Stans”. The Education Minister yesterday in an interview said that they are not going to announce they are canceling final exams for students in grades 5 through 11 in public schools because he didn’t want the students to quit studying. The country is currently in a lockdown and public school teachers are giving lessons over television for the past three weeks.

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