I have a confession to make: before yesterday, I hadn’t filed my taxes in three years. I know this is awful, but I was honestly just too overwhelmed.
Before moving abroad, I filed my taxes every year. It was easy: I claimed 0 on my W-2 form, then when tax season rolled around, my employer gave me all the information I needed. I typed it into Turbo Tax, and then got a nice refund in the bank and treated myself to a new outfit.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy when you move out of the country. I’m going to do my best to explain what I’ve learned over the past ten years as an expat, but first…
Here are some basics that you need to know before filing:
Almost two weeks ago, Anthony Bourdain took his life, and the news has formed deep wounds within the international community.
“He was our guide, our teacher,” says longtime expat Erin Connolly. “International teachers live uniquely transient lives; it was comforting to know that we could always turn to Anthony Bourdain to give us insight into the strange new places we were diving into.”
Connolly and her husband, Chris Powers, moved from Beijing to Romania two years ago, where they currently work at the American International School of Bucharest (AISB). “Anthony Bourdain was the person we turned to every time we visited [or moved to] a new country,” says Connolly. “Book a trip, watch Bourdain. He showed me not only how and where to eat, but how to be a thoughtful, sensitive, and productive traveler.”
Today I received a Facebook message from my friend Austin, who paid me the best compliment: “You’ve inspired me to move abroad.”
He’s heading to Costa Rica, with plans of running an online business, while learning Spanish, hitting some waves, and hopefully meeting a girl. In his words, he’s searching for “pura vida,” or “pure life.”
His message reminded me of something I wrote myself eight years ago, just before moving to South Korea. I was full of excitement and optimism and would spend hours scrolling though images of temples, reading about weekend trips from Seoul, and daydreaming about what my life would be like. I emailed everyone I knew who had spent time abroad to hear their stories.
But Austin included something in his note that I wish I had: he asked for advice, for insight. I thought about what I was going to say for awhile, and figured I’d share my reply with all of you. So, here goes: Continue reading →
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon a Facebook post written by my favorite writer, Elizabeth Gilbert. It was entitled “Why do we travel?” and began with a picture of herself, donning an eye mask and clearly suffering the effects of jet lag.
It was 3am. A time every traveler who has covered a multitude of time zones will tell you, is when you question your life choices. Much like Gilbert, you recall all the money you spent, the chores you left behind, and how many emails are waiting in your inbox. You look in the mirror, at a mere shadow of yourself—eyes hollowed, skin dry and taut, stomach bloated. And you wonder, “why the heck do I do this to myself?”
Prom tickets are for sale, yearbooks are circling the campus, and the students have traded their long pants and tennis shoes for jean shorts and sandals. It’s officially the end of the school year, and I’m counting down the days until I board a plane to Florida.
As a longterm expat, and international school teacher, I look forward to summer for so many reasons. Obviously it’s a chance to get in some much-needed friend time, family time, and pool time, but it’s also a chance to stock up on products that are hard to find (or just ridiculously expensive) on this side of the world. Continue reading →
Teaching Shakespeare is never easy. But teaching Shakespeare to a classroom of mostly English Language Learners? It’s not only difficult, but hilarious.
This morning I began reading Romeo & Juliet to my ninth graders. We had already gone over the history of Shakespeare’s life, the history of Elizabethan England, and what was considered popular entertainment at the time (think bear baiting, public executions and cockfights–and yes, “cockfights” evoked some serious laughter from the 14-year-old boys in the room.) Now it was time to discuss puns.
As an expat, there’s nothing more exciting than having friends and family visit. You get the opportunity to show off your new home, introduce them to a new culture, and hopefully convince them that you’re not completely insane for living abroad. However, there’s also a flip side. It can be quite stressful having guests, especially if you live in a non-English speaking country and plan to spend some of their vacation working, leaving them to their own devices.
I am not a morning person. I never have been. I never will be. But the fact that I’m now a high school teacher means I at least have to pretend.
So Monday through Friday, I set my alarm for 6am, giving me a solid hour to quietly enjoy a giant cup of coffee. I make breakfast. I cake concealer under my eyes. I bike to school to get my blood pumping. By the time my students enter the classroom at 8am, I fake a smile and actually resemble a human being.
If you’re an expat, or if you’ve ever traveled by yourself for long periods of time, you know that sometimes it’s tough to meet people. True, you may get lucky and meet that perfect group of people at a hostel, or another solo traveler on a walking tour. But what if you don’t? Well, my advice for you is to get online. There’s Meetup.com, which is a great site for finding activities or weekend trips with like-minded individuals, Couchsurfing.org, good for finding a couch/room or meeting locals, and the Tinder app for the single traveler, looking for a possible romance on the road. But if you’re planning on making a semi-permanent or even permanent move abroad, Internations is the way to go. The website is similar to Meetup, but with an emphasis on networking opportunities. I’ve personally been to several events, and have made many friends and business contacts along the way.
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I do for a living. “How did you start teaching overseas?” “Do you teach at a Chinese school or an American school?” “How do you travel so much?” “What kinds of benefits do you get?”
Then the most important: “How can I do it too?”
Six years ago, when the U.S. economy took a turn and I was left without a job, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and move to Korea to teach English. I had never taught before, I hadn’t traveled much, and admittedly, kids weren’t really my thing. But I thought, Hey, I can do anything for a year.