“I’m done with Life Abroad, Now What?”

Since my recent return to Canada for Christmas vacation, I’ve been thinking about my life in Japan, and what I’ll do after I’m done here. Many people, myself included, move abroad simply because they are bored with the status quo, or life in their home country no longer appeals or works for them for one reason or another (for me it was because I couldn’t get a job in my field if jobs were bears and I stripped naked and marinated in honey.) So you move abroad, and eke out a new glamorous life full of excitement adventure and employment. But sooner or later, home calls. Maybe you realize you’ve gone as far as you can go in this new country — I know this is the case for English instructors in Japan. I feel there will come a time when I’m sick of having the same salary year after year, and I have no ambition to open my own English school. When the time comes, I’ll have to move on to greener pastures. So I’ve come up with steps to make things easier for myself (and consequently, you if you happen to be in the same position).

Have a plan

Maybe it seems strange that I’m not even close to experiencing all I want to do here, and I’m already drawing up my exit strategy, but I’m pretty sure that by the time I want to leave, it’ll be too late. I’ll be taking some internet courses at a university back in Canada, so that when I go back I can be eligible for an internship that will likely lead to a job. A better opportunity may come along, but if not I can at least fall back on that.

Realize I don’t Have to Go Back Where I Came From

In fact I’m seriously considering moving to another city in Canada, if not another country all together. The beautiful thing about this move to Japan is that it has completely eradicated any fears I had about “living away from home”. I’m international, baby! Now that I know for a fact that I can make a comfortable life for myself in another country, I have a lot more freedom of choice in where I work, and where I’m willing to relocate.

A penny saved…

Is a penny spent on rent instead of living in my parents’ house. I probably love those two dear souls the most in the world, but I never again want to live with them lol. I like my independence too much.

I know things might not work out exactly as I plan them. After all, in the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, “plans are useless, but planning indispensable.” But knowing I have somewhere to go from here makes me feel a lot more secure.

If you live abroad, what are your plans once you’re done where you are?


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9 Responses to “I’m done with Life Abroad, Now What?”

  1. Kaley says:

    I’ve been thinking about this lately as well. I know I am just beginning my time in Japan, and I plan on being here for at least another year (maybe two if I can get placed in a city more central on Honshu), but I still like to start thinking about my next step, just have it in my mind, think on it for a while and decide it is what I really, really want.

    I planned my move to Japan for years, I believe it was just over two. And the transition was relatively seamless. I had enough money because I’d saved for so long, and I knew a lot of what to expect because I spent a lot of time researching it. I find that the be important.

    I have a few ideas in my head, mainly within the realm of graduate schools. Getting my masters in San Diego, NYC, or maybe even abroad in a country like Australia.

    But, it definitely is something that is important for most English teachers to think about. Do you want to settle down in Japan? Do you want to go home? Do you want to travel more? It’s amazing how many questions about your own life moving abroad seems to unearth.

  2. Indi says:

    My exit plan (from this prefecture) is already in motion. I applied to grad schools in the USA and Japan, and I’m leaving it up to fate (and scholarships) to decide where I will be come August. :)
    Planning ahead takes so much stress away. I’ve known too many instructors in my area that wait until their contracts are almost up, and then start to panic because it’s too late to apply to school or look for a local job.

    • Amanda says:

      I’m not so worried about my contract ending because I’m 99% sure I’ll be re-contracted. Most people are at my company, unless they’re really, really bad.

  3. My initial plan when was to move to DC, get an apartment, and start an awesome job or go to school.

    That failed miserably.

    I didn’t account for the amount of money I would spend on my plane ticket and shipping things back to the US (one box I NEVER got). And I didn’t account for the DC area being one of the most expensive places in the US to live. So I ended up depressed and in my mom’s home. Also being in Japan for so long became and issue when applying for jobs. As a teacher in Japan, I wasn’t certified to actually work as a teacher in the states, and I since I went to Japan right after college, I didn’t have any “real world work” experience in the states. Top it off with my job references being in Japan and I had issues. So I kept applying for things and not getting hired. Finally got a temp job.

    But I was lucky because things got better in a matter of maybe 9-10 months. I found a job at a non-profit that worked with kids, so having that “teaching” experience on my resume helped. Moved out of mom’s home, got a car, and went back to school.

    I came up with my plan about six months before I left, but didn’t actually do anything until about two months. I think planning ahead is good, but it also helps to do some research! Have you narrowed down the cities/countries you’re considering moving to? Have you visited/lived in them before? What is the job situation like? What do you WANT to do job/career wise? Do you course start now or when you return?

    • Amanda says:

      I’ve made my peace with the fact that I will likely be starting from scratch. I worked for 3 years but not in the field I want to go in. I plan to save up a good 10G’s before I go back, because I expect it will take a few months to land a job.

      The course I’ve already started in 2009, and I have six years to finish it. I can do the course over the internet and that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. I’ll likely be moving to Canada or the U.S, it will really depend on where it’s most likely I’ll get a job.

  4. zoomingjapan says:

    Interesting. For me it has been different.
    I didn’t go abroad because of the reasons you’ve mentioned here.
    I’ve been interested in Japan ever since elementary school and once I graduated from university and finally was FREE to do whatever I wanted to do, I fulfilled my dream and went off to Japan.

    I didn’t have a plan or anything, I just wanted to make my big dream come true.
    It turned out that I liked that country so much that I couldn’t go back home after only 1 year (as originally planned).
    My new plan then was to save enough money so that evenutally I could stop working and attend a Japanese language school IN Japan for 1-2 years in order to become fluent in Japanese.

    By the time I had enough money (after 2 years or so) I had already studied so much by myself that I was able to pass N2 easily. So my original plan went poof ….
    Ever since then I’ve been looking for something new to aim for … and haven’t found anything yet … and I really suffer because of it.

    I am very brave when I know what I want and I will definitely try to reach my goal … but what if you have no goals anymore? What if you cannot figure out what it is you want to do next?

    I’m still here in Japan after 4 years, going into my 5th year now, back with one foot in my home country already (meaning that I won’t stay that long anymore) … but with no future plan.

    I wish I could figure out what I want to do!

    By moving and trying something new this year in Japan, I hope that I might figure something out!

    Personally I learned that having a plan doesn’t really help, because in a few years things will have changed so much that your old plans might not fit anymore.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do in the future!! :)

    • Amanda says:

      Yeah that’s the scary part for me. I think I’ll try again with book publishing because I was interested in it back in Toronto. I don’t what this stint in Japan will do for me other than make me a more worldly and interesting person but hey if that’s all I get out of this I’ll take it ;) .

  5. kuma-san says:

    Responding to ShaSha,
    When I was a hiring manager in various positions in the U.S. I saw people like you all the time. Really smart, nice people, but they had been abroad for several years and simply didn’t have experience directly relevant to the company in New York they were applying for. Unfortunately, for many employers in the U.S., time abroad is only relevant if it was as a top exec at some top tier brand (Nike/Coke/Apple/etc.). Granted, some of this is due to closed-minded views by employers who think any time spent abroad is basically you just having fun while working. It’s also related to an often unacknowledged sort of elitism that says, “well, the company wasn’t in America, or even the UK, so it couldn’t have been that high quality.” Stupid, I know, but this is what you’ll often see in the eyes of employers upon return to the U.S.

    Anyway, to those reading this, take ShaSha’s tale as a very real example of what usually happens to those returning to the U.S. looking for work. It doesn’t seem fair, but ShaSha’s story is generally the way it works out. In fact, she was lucky that she got something inside of a year. I know people who return and can’t find work for a couple of years and then, completely frustrated, feel that they are basically “forced” to return abroad to get any work. It’s weird. Unfair. But very real.

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