Expatriatism

Sophie's story

Sophie in Thailand

After completing my university degree I was craving adventure. I had learnt about TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualifications in my degree and decided it was the best option for me to get away and experience different cultures and environments.

After completing my TEFL, I moved to China for a six month internship as an English teacher. My move to China was absolutely amazing but also extremely difficult at times. It was my first time in Asia, so of course the culture was a shock. Where I lived, many people had never even seen a westerner before, so day-to-day tasks like going to the supermarket could turn into a photoshoot for intrigued Chinese people who wanted a photo of the only white person in their town. The language barrier was also a challenge and I had to be extremely organised if I wanted to travel anywhere outside of my town. I would have to get a Chinese friend to write down the translation as to where I wanted to go.

Sophie swimming in Thailand

After this I worked and lived in Hong Kong for a year as a teacher. I got to do some amazing things here, like hiking through mountains, trips to Macau, camping on the beach. After completing my contract in Hong Kong, I decided to go travelling around South East Asia for two months. The best thing about living abroad has definitely been the amount I have learnt. I have seen some beautiful places, met people from all over the world and had the chance to broaden my knowledge from the people and places I’ve been.

Being an expat has opened my eyes to new ways of living. I have become very interested in other cultures and how other people live. Consequently, this has made me more open-minded. Also, due to the nature of travelling, I think it has made me more easy-going and relaxed about making lots of plans for the future.

Sophie and Matt

After this I chose to move back to the UK because I was in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend Matt. It was very difficult keeping to relationship going while being so far away from each other but we made it work. Between us we made visits back and forth so there was only about a three month cycle of not seeing each other over the year. He has a job in the UK so we're here for now. We're saving so we can both go away again, soon hopefully. He also moved to Canada for three months over the winter, and worked on the gondolas up the mountains and I went out to visit him there. It was a strange feeling to have the roles reversed, but Canada was beautiful and we got to go skiing and snowboarding every day.

I’ve found it extremely difficult re-adjusting back to the ways of the UK and I think I will never be fully satisfied living here again. After experiencing so many new and exciting things it was hard coming back to a world that was so familiar and unchanged. I feel travelling and living abroad have changed me as a person. Everything was exactly the same as before I went away and it was hard to process.

Sophie with locals in Cambodia

I am currently a pre-school teacher, which is in line with what I was doing abroad. However, my pay is a lot lower teaching in the UK than it was abroad and the work load appears to be a lot higher. Therefore, my job satisfaction is a lot lower now because of my comparisons to being an expat.

I wouldn’t rule out moving away again in the future. I’d love to do some more travelling, especially to places like Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. I am currently looking into working holiday visas which should give me the chance to work and feel like an expat, but also travel and have the laid back style of experiencing new countries.

I think for anyone planning to move away from their home country I would advise them to go with an open mind and enjoy every second of it!