What a year it’s been, and it’s only September.
I rang in the new year by moving to Turkey, a country I’d previously only spent 3 days in. My boyfriend and I found an apartment, and spent our first month getting acclimated, getting our CELTA certifications to teach English, opening Turkish bank accounts, learning new words, and getting job offers. In February we joined Revi, the Refugee Volunteers of Izmir, and started volunteering with Syrian refugees. Around the same time, we began our careers as English teachers.
The next 6 months were a whirlwind. We moved apartments, having tired of our lack of internet and lackluster location, made friends at work and with our fellow volunteers, and taught a lot of English. I taught three classes at work, but also taught in Syrian’s homes. We started a program in the Revi school, then closed it when it became too crazy. I started a girls-only class that was small but so much fun. I surprised myself by becoming really attached to my pupils at the home we visited, a group of three girls aged 11, 13 and 15 who were all bright, spunky, and eager to learn. I also opened an Etsy shop to sell some of the things that the Syrian women in our community created.
Then, after the strange and startling coup in July, I was forced to reevaluate my life in Turkey, and decided to move on to different pastures. I packed up my things, closed my bank account and my apartment. We threw a few parties, and there were some delightful, emotional Syrian dinners and breakfasts with people who had become so dear to me.
The subsequent month has been spent doing some serious traveling! In 4 1/2 weeks, my boyfriend and I visited Berlin, Poland, Moldova, many places in Ukraine, and France. I won’t go into many details here; I have months worth of stories coming, including us finding our roots in Poland and Ukraine, peeking behind the iron curtain in Transnistria, and discovering pure magic in Nantes.
That brings us up to the present! Currently, I find myself in Germany, doing a work exchange with a family in a tiny village in the Bavarian forest. In exchange for my own large room and delicious, home-cooked meals, I help with housework and practice English with the kids (a set of 12-year-old triplets), which is really just us hanging out and playing games, or helping with their English homework. I have lots of free time to explore the forest with the dog, attempting to hunt for mushrooms, and opportunities for day and weekend trips to the surrounding towns. It doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s a nice change, a chance to take a breath and enjoy life at a slower pace. After working and then traveling nonstop, I need some time and space to reflect.
And what of the future, you might ask? In late October, I will be returning to the US for the first time in nearly a year. I will spend the month of November in California, attending a close friend’s wedding, voting in the US presidential election, and celebrating my birthday. Then in December, I will begin my next English teaching job, in Japan! I am so happy about this job. It has everything I was looking for in an ESL job, all of the desired perks and benefits. What really spoke to me about this particular company is that they communication and creativity in the classroom, values that are really important to me as a teacher. I was lucky that my job in Turkey also valued this. Standing at the board giving grammar is not my style!
When I think about this year, my first year abroad, it was a big one. I moved to Turkey, taught English, volunteered, left after a coup, traveled in Europe for a month, did a work exchange in Germany, hung out with friends and family in California, and began a job in Japan. Pretty good for a first year abroad.
The best part about this year? This is exactly the life I wanted when I imagined my life abroad.
PS- You may have noticed that the blog looks a bit different now. It was time for an update as I’m no longer in Turkey. You also may have noticed that the tag line has changed. I will no longer be experiencing all of these things as part of a couple, but will be venturing into the unknown on my own, for practically the first time in my life. While this will no doubt be a huge adjustment, I ultimately think it will be good for me, and I am open and positive about the future.