Former Miami resident Francesca Fraser has now lived abroad for nearly a decade. She spent 4 years in Korea, working as an English language instructor, and then took her talents to Saudi Arabia.
She recently retired from teaching to focus on her passion project, ‘Expat Divas.’ This digital publication seeks to highlight the stories and experiences of other Black expat women around the world, as well as serve as a resource for those wanting to make the move.
Most recently, she and her husband decided to make Kigali, Rwanda their next home. The couple will move there in about a month.
We had the chance to speak with Francesca to learn more about life abroad and what initially led her to make the move.
Travel Noire: What inspired you to move abroad?
Francesca: I had been working in the Miami-Dade public school system, tired, frustrated and unfulfilled in my position. During this time, I took a few solo trips to Central America (Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala) and quickly noticed, I liked being outside more than I liked being inside the US. The dreaming began. I wanted to see more of the world, and I wanted to do it alone. After each solo trip, I felt empowered, energized and more of myself. It was during these trips, I became more self-aware, confident and resilient.
I remember the day; I was looking for a new teaching position within Miami-Dade and the ads for “Teach in Korea” kept popping up. It wasn’t long before I began the serious inquiry and packed my bags. That was 10 years ago.
TN: How did you decide on Rwanda?
Francesca: When I left Miami, I knew that I was coming out into the world to find my forever home. One of the best things about living abroad has been my ability to pop in and out of many countries. The moment I arrived in Kigali; I knew I had found home. The scent of the air, the welcoming from the people and the ease that draped over me was undeniable. After spending an extended amount of time, on 3 separate occasions; making the decision to call it home was easy.
Kigali is blossoming into a hub for East African tech startups and welcomes the entrepreneur with their easy e-service registration. They pride themselves in having a clean country, with a stable infrastructure. It is one of the fastest emerging economies in East Africa.
Moving to Kigali, Rwanda is about transitioning into a new phase of life. We have both worked so hard for other people, for so many years, we felt it was time to create a new lifestyle for ourselves. Now, newly married, the timing couldn’t be any better. Our plan is to open a guesthouse, welcoming people interested in cozy, minimalist living.
TN: Do you see yourself returning to the States? Why or why not?
Francesca: Living in the US is not an option for me. I will continue to make time to visit with my family, but it hasn’t felt like home in years. When I return to the US, I find that my world experiences have generated a way of thinking that no longer coincides with American culture. For example, in American culture, watching TV, celebrity gossip and culture fads are often the topic of conversation. Because my norm has shifted, it is a challenge to find interest in these topics. Another example, as expats we spend much of our lives listening to different music, speaking different languages, tasting new foods, interacting with a variety of people – because of this we see the world differently. We have a different relationship with ourselves and the world around us.
As much as America claims to be the melting pot, there is still an undertone of ignorance and disdain towards other cultures. And I definitely wouldn’t return to the US because my husband is not American. I would live in his country of Andorra, simply for the ease of life, before returning to the US.
TN: Can you give a few tips to others wanting to move abroad, especially to Africa?
Francesca: For those wanting to move to Africa, it is a good idea to do some research and visit a few times. A vacation is way different than an extended stay. Rent a car and use local facilities, like going to a bank to make a transaction, go to the local wifi/mobile store to purchase services, head to the local markets and browse the aisles to see if you like the available products. On each visit, I would encourage people to use as many local services in order to get a feel for the culture and ease of use.
You will never find out everything before moving – but you do want to make sure your needs are met. Depending on what you need, each country will either succeed or fall flat. After checking visa requirements and medical services, one may want to think about 1) the way you will secure your income, depending on your field; finding employment, may be a challenge. Investors and self-employed may have more options. The cost of living in Africa varies greatly across countries. Keep in mind, if you want to maintain a certain lifestyle of western conveniences, then earning at the USD rate may be necessary. 2) Be humble. Be careful of not exuding the oppressor’s mentality. In my travels to a few African countries, I have come across African Americans exude an air of entitlement. It’s a natural human reaction to have when your dollar goes a long way and not uncommon when locals attempt to put you on a pedestal. 3) Network to connect with a few residents before heading out. Local organizations are a great place to start. This can be done easily by reaching out to colleges, museums and business councils.
TN: Where can we find you online?