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Thursday, March 31, 2016

So You Want To Work Abroad...

Does anyone remember a post I wrote a while back in which I alluded to moving?  Well, it's probably time to share the reason behind that move.  We moved because I was offered a job in the DC area.  Scott and I have resigned from our jobs in Kazakhstan, and will not be going back there.

When we first accepted our job offers in Kazakhstan, we planned to stay there for at least three years, and maybe longer.  Part of me feels sorry that our plan didn't work out, particularly when I think about some of my students over there.  But we also had good reasons for leaving, and in the end, very few decisions don't come with an element of regret.

It's funny thinking back on my expectations when we decided to work over there.  I have very fond memories of studying abroad, and I thought working abroad would be similar, but with a salary.  I started this blog in part because I imagined having all sorts of cool adventures and discoveries that I wanted to document.  And there was some of that--along with an awful lot of life as usual, but without many of the comforts and conveniences of home.

Since I'm not going back, I thought I would write a small series of posts on working abroad.  I realize, of course, that no two jobs anywhere are the same, and that even at the same job, everybody has their own individual experience.  I'm also not trying to either encourage or discourage other people from working abroad.  But I wanted to document some of my thoughts on the process and lessons learned (sometimes lessons learned the hard way) in case it would be useful to anyone else.

Since lessons learned the hard way often have an air of negativity to them, though, I thought I would use this post to list some of the very positive aspects of my experience there:

1.  We met all sorts of interesting people.  Between our colleagues and our students, we met a lot of great people, many of whom we may never have met otherwise.  Isn't it funny how life works that way?  You do something seemingly random, like taking a job in Kazakhstan, and end up gaining a social circle.

2.  In spite of the constant interference from work and "real life," we took some great trips.  Uzbekistan had been on my list of must-sees for a long time, but I don't know if I would have seen it if I hadn't already been so close.  We saw some great things in Kazakhstan itself, too--particularly the flamingos and the Aksu Zhubagly nature preserve.  Georgia hadn't even been on my radar until eating Georgian food in Astana,and I'm really glad we went!  We chose Austria for our spring break trip last year in part because of the direct flight from Astana, and I'm very happy to have visited it, too.  I had never seen Europe (aside from airports and the European half of Istanbul), and now I'm anxious to see more of it.

3.  We were able to save some money more quickly that we would have in the US.  Not having to pay rent makes saving much easier.

4.  I got to stretch my wings professionally.  My teaching experience prior to going to Kazakhstan consisted of having been an adjunct instructor for a year.  Then, all of a sudden, I was starting a program and making all my own teaching decisions.  I'm very grateful to have had that opportunity.

5.  My attitude toward stuff has changed for the better.  Having a massive forced de-cluttering session before moving to Kazakhstan and back to the US has changed the way I think about possessions.  I doubt I'll ever be a hard-core minimalist (too many craft supplies, for one thing), but I am thinking much more carefully about both stocking up on anything "just in case" and holding on to stuff I'm not really using "just in case".  I think I finally have it in my head that more stuff does not necessarily make life any easier.

Stay tuned for lessons learned and (possibly) helpful tips!


  1. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about working abroad! I hope you all are settling in well in DC.

    1. Thanks! We're hoping you might get a chance to visit us sometime. :)