In August of 2008, I moved overseas for the first time to teach at the GDQ school. Apart from being a blessing to me, it was also preparation for the next decade of my life. After spending a year in Tirana, I moved back to Georgia to complete a graduate degree, only to move to South Korea a few years later. After four years in Jeju-do, I moved to London. Each time I moved, navigating a new culture became easier.
The first move was the hardest, but it was also the most exciting. I learned things about myself I couldn’t have learned any other way. There were days when I would walk down the street and think, “I can’t believe God blessed me so much that I get to live here!” Then I would cross the street and think, “I hate it here!” (That was the culture shock talking.)
Eventually, life settled into a routine, which I think is helpful when adjusting to a new culture. I learned where to buy groceries, how to navigate the bus, and how to cross the street without getting clipped by a fast car (which actually happened to me once). I learned enough of the language to be polite and buy things from the markets. I became friends with some fantastic people. I went to work and taught my fantastic students during the week, just like I did back home. I found a church to be part of and joined a ladies’ Bible study. I was no longer transitioning; I was simply living. It started to feel like home.
Are you considering joining GDQ as a teacher? Thinking about living in the unfamiliar can be unnerving. Before I moved abroad, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t only moving to another country; I was also moving into a new community. There was always someone willing to explain things I didn’t understand or make recommendations when I needed them. Everyone there has had to adjust to a new life. They all understand the struggle. Are you willing to face the struggle (with a helpful, prayerful, and understanding community behind you)? I know you will experience blessings, even though sometimes things may be tough.
One verse that has obvious meaning for anyone living abroad is Psalm 139:9-10. When I was in Albania, and later in South Korea and London, I felt this verse was written especially for me. It was written especially for you, too.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.