Wow it’s been a while since I’ve done an Expat Wisdom post! With everything that’s happened over the past few months I figured that most people were preoccupied with their health and put the project on hold for a while. But we’re back and I’m excited to share a great story of an expat family with this week.
What is the Expat Wisdom Project?
Incase you’re new here, the Expat Wisdom project is something I started a couple years ago where I share the story of one expat each month. The goal of this project is to hear about each other’s experiences, broaden our mindsets, and build an online community. If you’re interested in reading more posts in the Expat Wisdom series you can find them here.
I’m really excited to share the story of an expat family this week – the O’Sullivans. Their talk of being teachers at an expat school and moving around every few years reminds me a lot of the teachers and my experience at my own international/expat school. It’s interesting to hear about those schooling experiences from an adult/teacher rather than another student!
Their Expat Wisdom Story
Hello! We’re the O’Sullivans and we are currently living in Kathmandu Nepal. We both work at the American international school here (Jeremiah as the librarian and Allison as the school counselor) and our two kids both attend the school. Our kids are full on Third Culture Kids that were both born in two different countries (Taiwan and Thailand), both call different places home, and both love going back to the US during breaks.
We are originally from Portland, Oregon, but decided we wanted to teach abroad in 2009 and since then we’ve lived in Taichung, Taiwan for three years, Kathmandu, Nepal for six years, Riga, Latvia for two years, and recently we moved back to Nepal where we expect to be for a few years.
Living abroad and becoming expats has always been on our minds. While we were both getting our Masters in Teaching/Counseling in Portland, we started planning for it. We had talked with enough people that were teaching abroad that we knew it was something we were interested in. After we finished school and got two years of experience teaching in the US, we attended an international school job fair in San Francisco, where we were offered jobs in Taiwan and Nigeria the day before the fair and we chose to work in Taiwan.
For us, one of the most appealing things about teaching abroad is that we don’t stay in one location for very long. You usually sign a two year contract with a school and after that contract is completed, from then on you sign one year contracts. Most schools (outside of Europe!) will pay for your housing and full medical insurance as well as fly you and your family home each summer. Teaching abroad isn’t without sacrifices or problems though. You do miss friends and family, food, and being in a comfort zone, but for us the pros definitely outweigh the cons. It’s important to gather or bring things that make you happy so your home is a safe spot for you and also to get the fastest internet possible so you can keep in touch with people around the world!
We have found that going into overseas living or moving to another country with an open mind, go-with-the-flow attitude, and creating an “expat family”, while sometimes not easy to do, has helped us navigate difficult and even scary situations. We lived in Taiwan when we had our first baby. We had a great experience with our hospital and with our doctor, however it was very nerve wracking to deliver a baby surrounded by people who do not speak English. Best laid plans ended in an emergency c-section delivery. Our Taiwanese friend helped us translate and brought traditional meals for moms recovering from labor and delivery. Several years later, with two small children we were in Kathmandu when there was a 7.8 earthquake, which also shook us. It was difficult not to have any family members near us and incredibly difficult for them watching the news, particularly with cell towers down so communication was limited. Our close friends were an incredible source of support, both practical and emotional. We can look back on these experiences and see through the challenges to how we were able to grow stronger and more resilient.
If anyone is interested in teaching abroad, the two main sites you need to go to are iss.edu and searchassociates.com. These are the most reputable teaching abroad sites and if you want to teach at a decent school, you’ll want to use them. Teaching abroad has been one of the most rewarding experiences and we love talking to people about it. If you’re interested and have questions, please reach out to us on Instagram @osullivansabroad or contact us through our blog at osullivansabroad.com!
A reminder that if you’re interested in becoming part of the Expat Wisdom project you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can start talking about your feature!
A huge thank you to the O’Sullivans for being a part of this project!
A reminder that the illustration in this post is courtesy of my store Wildflower Studios! We’re running a sale right now, so be sure to take a look.
See you next week,