The Black Expat:’ I Had Faith That Things Would Work Out’
Katrina McNair was no stranger to traveling while growing up. Her parents were in the military, so she was born in Germany, lived in Iceland, then raised in Virginia. She now lives and works in the United Arab Emirates where she has been since 2015. She currently works as a Science teacher in Abu Dhabi.
We spoke with her about her life as a Black expat in the UAE.
Travel Noire: Why did you make the move abroad?
Katrina: Before moving to the UAE, I taught in Baltimore City Public Schools. While there, I realized that I didn’t want to wait until I was older to travel and explore new cultures. I wanted to find a way to merge my passion for teaching science and traveling. I came home from work one day and did a Google search for science teaching positions abroad. Abu Dhabi was the first place that came up. At the time, I had never heard of Abu Dhabi. However, I wasn’t afraid to move there and live in the Middle East. I was only concerned about the amount of paperwork, personal finances, and the fact that I was making the move alone.
TN: Why did you ultimately decide on the UAE?
Katrina: One of the most rewarding parts of my job is to hear students who use to hate science mention how much they love it with me as their teacher. After researching a little more about the UAE, I realized that the UAE is one of the leading countries in the Middle East that wants to push innovation and science for its citizens. I knew that if I moved there, I would be teaching science at an all-girls school. My only hope was to inspire as many girls as I could to fall in love with science, to feel confident in the subject, and then to pursue it when they became older since minority women are largely underrepresented in the science field. I felt that if my female students could see a female teacher passionate about science, they could visualize the science field as a place for them too.
TN: What struggles do you face living abroad?
Katrina: The day I landed in Abu Dhabi, I was unaware of who would pick me up from the airport, where I would stay, or which school I would work at. Even though I didn’t know, I was still calm because I had faith that things would work out. I was randomly assigned to one of the more rural towns in the emirate of Abu Dhabi called Ghayathi. It has one major hospital, one hotel, and one gas station. My neighbors were also my co-workers and my friends. The teachers who were assigned to that area were all single without kids, due to the limited facilities for families. Although we all met each other as strangers, we pretty much became instant friends. If anyone was sick, they had to rely on a neighbor to take them to the doctor since there weren’t any taxis, any Uber drivers, and some of us did not have cars. If we needed to catch a flight, shop for clothes, or just wanted to escape our small desert town for the weekend, it required us to carpool over two hours to Abu Dhabi.
TN: Tell us about one of your most memorable experiences.
Katrina: The weddings I attended will always be a lasting memory. Many of the weddings usually had open invitations posted throughout the town. As an expat, I would usually be invited if a friend or co-worker was also invited. It was normal for friends to bring their friends to weddings. The men and the women would gather separately; the women would usually be in the wedding hall, and the men would usually gather outside at a different location. There was always plenty of biryani rice, camel meat, and desserts to go around at each table. I truly learned the value of community and sharing food from being immersed in the Emirati culture during special occasions. In addition to the delicious food, there would also be lots of music, dancing, and traditional oils being passed around in a bowl to drizzle on you.
TN: Where can we find you on social media?
Katrina: The easiest way is @Teach.Travel.Trina on Instagram.