For those considering looking for work overseas, it can be a life changing experience. Find out the pros and cons of such a decision.
I never thought I would live and work overseas for 10 years, but I’m so glad I did. It was a life changing experience because I got to visit exotic places on a whim without making a dent in my budget. Best of all, I saved cash like mad, paid off some of my debt, learned a lot about different cultures, and had fun while doing it.
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. During my time overseas I’ve lived in three countries and traveled to dozens, and I even got to stay in some luxury hotels.
Still with me? Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) from being an expat for 10 years.
I Got More for My Money
My teaching salary was the same as I would have gotten in the U.S., but I lived in countries where it was possible to live more cheaply, one of them being China. So my $3,500 a month paycheck went a lot further than it would have back home.
Since I was a certified teacher working at accredited international schools (which are like regular schools in the U.S. except I was teaching expat kids from around the world), I got extra benefits such as housing and travel stipends. Considering these are major expenses, I saved some serious cash and was able to travel during each school break.
Here’s a breakdown of what I spent on monthly expenses in USD when I lived in China:
- Rent – $0 (the two bedroom apartment I lived in would have cost me $650)
- Transportation – $50
- Utilities – $100
- Internet – $200 per year (high speed internet)
- Restaurants – $150
- Groceries – $100
- Health insurance – $0
- Entertainment – $100
I Got to Broaden My Horizons
There’s no doubt that traveling will broaden your horizons. Even more so if you live in a foreign country. I got to learn about different cultures and I know it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t immerse myself in a foreign country for many years. I got to do so many fun things that I never would have otherwise. I met some amazing friends, locals, and expats.
Speaking of expats and locals, the networking opportunities are just that much richer. I was surprised at how many opportunities came out of nowhere. I got so many teaching job offers just because friends had spoken about me to the principals of different international schools. I worked with some cool startups on their content marketing projects just because I met the owners at restaurants. Thanks to these people, it convinced me to take my side hustle more seriously and turn my freelance writing into a full-time venture.
I even took Chinese lessons so I could better integrate into the community. Because I was able to speak some of the language, I made friends with more locals, joked with taxi drivers, and even got to go on a fully paid vacation with a Chinese family to their hometown during a major Chinese holiday.
I Got Homesick
It’s great being abroad and all, but at some point I started to miss certain things. Like my friends and family. Or even being able to buy a box of Apple Jacks at my local grocery store.
When I was stressed, it wasn’t so easy to rely on the comforts of home. I remember being so tired and worn out that I just wanted to buy a bag of sour cream and onion chips and pig out on the couch. But where I lived, there are flavors like roasted duck and Mongolian hot pot (these are real favors) instead of the usual favorites.
I also missed my family and friends. It’s also mentally draining when I was trying to do simple errands, all because I had to communicate in a different language. It’s embarrassing to admit, I cried at the post office one time because the staff kept telling me I was standing in the wrong line.
Wanna Go Overseas?
I would never trade my expat experiences for anything, good or bad. If you do decide to go overseas like I did, make sure to be prepared. Research the destination you’ll be living in so you know where the best medical services are and what to do in case of emergencies.
Sarah Li Cain is an experienced content marketing writer specializing in FinTech, credit, loans, personal finance, alternative investments, international business and k12 education. Her work has appeared in Fortune 500 companies, publications and startups such as AOL Jobs, Magnify Money, Credit Karma, FluentU, Pearson Teachability and Chicago Tribune. Sarah specializes in writing compelling content that weaves in strong storytelling. It has helped the brands she’s worked with not only engage their audience, but be remembered in a sea of content.
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