Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Rosa
The Black Expat: 'Living Abroad Made Me More Adventurous'
Rosa, our latest Black expat, has lived in South Korea for the last two years. The 50-year-old Massachusetts native currently teaches English at two middle schools an hour away from Seoul.
We spoke with her about her life as a Black expat.
Travel Noire: What initially led you to move abroad?
Rosa: It had always been a goal of mine to live and teach abroad. The opportunity to teach came at a point in my life when I was looking for a new goal. I had already achieved most of the goals that I had set for myself. Being divorced with no kids made it that much easier just to pick up and move. The hardest thing for me has been missing my family and not being able to watch my nieces and nephews grow while I am away.
TN: Why did you choose Korea?
Rosa: Korea was my first duty station in 1992 when I was in the US Army. I fell in love with the culture, and I have always wanted to come back, learn the language, and see the country.
TN: How have you managed to make life in a foreign place as normal and comfortable as you have?
Rosa: I always try to make the best of any situation. I knew what I was getting myself into, so I was prepared to be uncomfortable with the changes and ready to be flexible. Life doesn’t stop because you live in a foreign country. I find that it makes me more adventurous. I have met some wonderful people through a running club that I joined when I first got here. These individuals have become like a second family to me. I had already traveled a lot, lived by myself, served in the military, so the only difference for me is not seeing the familiar faces that I am used to seeing on a daily basis. Other than that, I do the same things that I did at home. Now, more effort is put into doing those things because of the language and cultural differences.
TN: What hobbies have you picked up or carried over while there? How have they helped your experience as an expat?
Rosa: Running and volunteering are two very important things in my life. It was a must for me to find a place to volunteer and serve others. It is a way for me to give back regardless of where I live. I currently serve at a soup kitchen regularly. Running keeps me connected to the community and, to me, it is the best way to really learn about a country and its people. I have spent many wonderful moments with the members of the running club. These two things keep me centered.
TN: What struggles, if any, have you faced as a black woman in Korea?
Rosa: I have to say that I have been very blessed. I haven’t really faced any struggles. I believe that kindness goes a long way, so the way you treat people is how you will be treated.
TN: What advice can you give to those who feel it may be too late to become an expat?
Rosa: I would say to anyone looking to move abroad, to always have an open mind, be prepared to learn and to understand that you are a guest. Most important, get out of your comfort zone, see the country, learn the language, and meet the locals.
TN: Where can we find you on social media?
Rosa: I can be followed on Instagram @travelgryl.