I often hear, “Living abroad seems like a dream.” I have clients who want to live abroad, but don’t know where to begin. Some of them have desired to live abroad for years, but they either lose focus of their dream, don’t know anyone who has made living abroad a reality, or they feel overwhelmed by the notion of packing their bags and globetrotting all over the world. However, it’s funny because I even hear things like, “I don’t know any black women doing that.” Well, living abroad doesn’t have a race limitation nor is it reserved for the rich and famous. You too! can live abroad. (Sign up now! for an update)
In a few weeks, I am going to release the first book in my Nomadic Chick Travel Guide Series showing you how feasible it really is. In the meantime, I wanted to interview real women who have not only lived abroad, but who are doing some great things while living out their international dreams. Here is my first interview with State Department Funded English Fellow, LaTasha Simms.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing an old friend of mine from South Korea, LaTasha Simms. I met LaTasha over six years ago when we were both living and working in South Korea teaching English. LaTasha is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but currently living in Chengdu, China. She had just arrived in Chengdu after spending a few months in the Middle East when I caught up with her for this interview.
When did you first fall in love with the notion of living and traveling abroad? I’ve always loved to travel. When I was child, I would get so excited before road trips that I couldn’t sleep. My first international trip was to Paris, France, in my first year of high school. This was actually the first flight I’d ever taken. I still have no clue how my mother afforded that trip, the private school I was attending and supporting our family. Who knows what I may have become if she had not.
We met in South Korea, so what was the best thing about living in Korea? We did indeed. I loved the fresh delicious and organic produce being sold widely throughout the city and country side. Living in Korea left a lasting impression on the way I view health. To this day, I drink tea everyday and take walks. I also liked that there was ALWAYS something to do in South Korea. I never felt bored, there was too much to do most of the time.
What have you learned from living and working abroad that has changed your life?
“Believe half of what you see, none of what you hear.” Living abroad has taught me that you’ll never truly know or appreciate a culture until you experience it for yourself. Being open to receive all that an experience has to offer you, and walking away with understanding and compassion. I now firmly believe in the vital role that cultural ambassadors, diplomats, and intercultural communicators play in our ever globalization society.
How did you feel when you came home after living in Korea for five years? Completely disconnected. I graduated from Central State University in June 2008. I landed in South Korea on August 25, 2008. I missed 5 years of domestic networking, conferences, and family events. I worked so hard for over a year to reconnect myself with old colleagues, friends, and family in order to reestablish my network. It was difficult.
Yeah, many people don’t understand that Repatriation is REAL. I totally understand the disconnected feeling.
What has been the most challenging thing you have experienced living and/or traveling abroad? Feeling like a goldfish in a very small fish tank. Today, while taking the bus home, I had to ask a Chinese couple many times to stop taking photos of me. They were excited to meet a foreigner, they told me I was beautiful, then proceeded to take photo after photo of me without my permission.
Where have you traveled internationally? I have traveled to 16 countries. France, Spain, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Panama, Trinidad, Amsterdam, Oman, Armenia, Georgia, China, Japan, and the UAE.
What is the best thing about a life being able to experience the world? People. I have met some of the most brilliant and talented people while living abroad. I have a very eclectic group of friends that I’m proud to have met.
Tell us, where are you currently are and what took you there? I am currently living in Chengdu, China. I recently received an English Language Fellowships. I am one of very few people to be chosen for this opportunity.The English language fellowship is a U.S. State Department sponsored program that links TESOL professionals with universities in over 40 countries.
That sounds exciting, tell us how you acquired this opportunity? The application for the English language fellowship is lengthy. You’ll need to submit a statement of purpose, lesson samples, transcripts, and recommendations in order to apply. If you’re chosen from the applicant pool, the second step is an interview, project offer, and health verification. Once this is all completed, you must attend an orientation in Washington D.C. The entire process takes about six months. This was actually my second time applying.
It seems that you are loving traveling the world, can you tell my readers why you think it’s important to travel, especially internationally? Television is art imitating life. What you see in the media is often times not entirely true. Forming your own opinions and perceptions are vital to understanding the world around you. Conversely, it’s important to allow people to experience you and your culture, for the same reasons. We are a global society. The lines between us are blurring everyday. From climate change to our economy, we affect one another.
Finally, what advice would you give the next generation or other women who want to live abroad, but don’t really know where to begin?
“Dream Big, Think Big, Work Smart, Be great.” Dare to dream as big as possible. Do not allow what you see to make you blind. This world is full of successful people who only had dreams. Seek out the opportunities that will allow you to one day attain your dream. Network with people who have something to offer your dreams, as well as those who enrich your present. Find a good mentor who is knowledgeable and cares about your success. Don’t expect to start at the top. Be ready and willing to start at the bottom and work smart. Once you’ve begun your journey, start to mentor someone, pay the kindness that people showed you forward.
Well, as always it is a pleasure to catch-up with women traveling the world, but it’s extra special when you get the opportunity to reconnect with people you actually know and have broken bread with on this journey. Thanks LaTasha for sharing part of your journey with me and my readers. Please keep us updated on life in China.