My husband joined the Department of State’s Foreign Service (the U.S. diplomatic corps) seven years ago. He didn’t apply to join for many years although we are both international travel and language aficionados, met while studying abroad in Russia, and lived there together for two years after college graduation. He did not want me to compromise my career and move around the world every two to three years. So he waited to accept the offer until the day before the deadline to return the signed offer letter – he literally sent it overnight via FedEx.
Our first child was a newborn at the time and we loved our house, friends, and close-knit neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C. where we had lived for five years. But we asked ourselves: “How will we feel in 10 years if we are still here and didn’t take this chance? Will we regret it?” While the last seven years have been more than challenging at times (in less than one year I moved three times halfway around the world; gave birth in the U.S. while living temporarily at my parent’s house with my two year old; lost my dear father and last living grandfather and grandmother; and my first business partner resigned), I can still say we would have regretted not taking this giant leap. Here’s why.
Learning New Languages
I have always loved languages. I went to Hebrew School at my temple in New Hampshire growing up and learned the basics. I don’t remember it much, but that sparked an interest that led me to study Russian in seventh grade. I then majored in it in college and I’ve used it in several of my jobs since. While I don’t feel the need to become fluent in every language we encounter, I love being able to get around with confidence – from grocery shopping to asking for directions. I learn something from locals when I can speak to them in their language that I am sure I would not otherwise learn, from taxi drivers to wait staff to baby sitters.
Becoming Immersed In A Culture
Becoming immersed in a culture. To build on my point above, short-term travel doesn’t allow me to really get to know a country, its culture, and people. Living in a place for an extended period does. When I leave a country, I write down the things I’ll miss. The commonality is always people. By living there, I get to know them in a deeper way because we have continued interactions versus a one-time encounter.
Exposing My Children
We now have three children. This unique lifestyle allows us to expose them to new cultures, people, and different ways of living and thinking. This is very important to my husband and me. I grew up in a small, homogenous town but in an open-minded family. I love hearing my eldest daughter ask why something was a certain way in Chile but not here. She’s learning to both understand and appreciate the world by experiencing it.
Meeting Amazing New Friends
I’ve always loved meeting new people, but not just meeting them – connecting with them and building strong bonds. When I look back at our time overseas, I realize that I would never have met so many of my now dear friends. They are like family because when you are abroad, your family isn’t close by. I feel I can turn to them when I am in a crisis or have successes to share. While some I may not have the opportunity to see for many years, I know instinctively that we will reconnect again when we do as if no time has passed.
Sparking creativity for my career
Moving abroad was the kick in the pants I needed to start my first business doing career consulting. It also led me to meet my business partner in Chile and start a business to help U.S. military and diplomat spouses find
rewarding jobs. Both were bootstrapped and started from zero, i.e., with zero clients. These haven’t been easy to run and build from abroad, but I have met so many amazing partners and clients as a result who I never would have met had I not taken this path.
When you’re far away and don’t have the conveniences of home, especially in a place like Uzbekistan, you appreciate home that much more. I love the simplicity of life elsewhere, which is true especially when you don’t have roots somewhere. I no longer take for granted the freedom and conveniences of life in the United States, even in spite of our country’s current situation.
This is an obvious one, but I’ve recently realized that it is more than just for our immediate family’s benefit. Because we are moving around, our family and friends can visit us and experience a country in more depth than they may have while staying in a hotel. We can share our home, knowledge, and experiences with friends and our
extended family who may never have ventured to a place otherwise.
What about you? What do you love about your international and global life?
Author: Marcelle Yeager
When Marcelle’s husband joined the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service (diplomatic corps) in 2011, she reinvented her career in strategic communications and started a portable resume writing business, Career Valet (www.careervalet.com). She has written for U.S. News and World Report’s On Careers blog and ClearanceJobs.com. In 2015, she started ServingTalent, which matches U.S. military and diplomat spouses/partners with employers.