Grace's story

Grace at Ankor Wat Temple in Cambodia

When I finished university I wasn’t sure what to do, but I did know that I didn’t want to stay in the UK. A graduate scheme mailing list I had signed up for had an advert for TEFL jobs, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the best way to move abroad.

After completing the qualification I moved to Hong Kong to work as a teacher. I lived there for a year and it has given me the opportunity to see places and experience different cultures. I have also made friends from all walks of life who share my interests. It has helped me to learn a lot about myself and what I’m capable of.

I have met some many people from living abroad and I have made friends with so many people I wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths with. Being able to go from being surrounded by looming giants of skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of the city in the morning, to being on top of a mountain, with the wind in your hair and surrounded by lush green in the afternoon was a surreal and amazing experience. I have had the chance to try lots of activities I would never have considered in the UK.

Grace with a baby crocodile

There were also some difficult times with living abroad. The time difference between the UK and Hong Kong was hard, and at first I was feeling homesick. It was difficult seeing what all my friends back home were doing and feeling like I was missing out. The weird thing is this completely reversed when I left Hong Kong and now I get homesick seeing what all my friends are doing who are still in Hong Kong. The cultural differences could sometimes be challenging, particularly the different ways of dealing with situations (anything to do with bank accounts was infuriating!).

I moved back at the end of my contract, not extending was a decision I made early on in the contract. When it came to an end I realised then that this had been a mistake, but at this point it was too late to change my plans. The hardest part with moving back to the UK was coming from a city where you could get everything and do anything you wanted at any given time of day, to coming back to the small town I grew up in with very little to do. It was great coming back to all my friends and family, but I had spent so long away it was my only point of reference, and they all soon got bored of me talking about my travels.

Grace feeding elephants

I am now about to start a position as an SEN teaching assistant, and have been doing lots of volunteering work to gain experience for a masters in speech and language therapy. Moving abroad was not only a solution to a difficult decision at the time but also helped me discover the area I wanted to develop a career in.

I would still love to live elsewhere in the future as the UK just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I’d love to go back to Asia as I don’t think I had enough time there, or to a Scandinavian country as I love their way of life. Over the next few years I’ve also committed myself to qualifying as a speech therapist – maybe when I’ve achieved that I’ll go abroad again.

For anyone debating a move abroad just do it, life’s too short to just stay in one place!