The Intentional Expat

Living Your Best Life Abroad

The Intentional Expat Interview Series: An English Teacher in Western Mongolia

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The past few weeks of interviews have been a huge success! The first week we heard from J Russell Mikkelsen, an avid traveler and blogger and last week got a glimpse at life abroad for a Spaniard living in the USA. Today’s interview comes from fellow blogger Tina, who got in touch with me a few weeks ago to be part of the interview series. I took one look at her blog, Kulturschock! and sent the questions her way. While we haven’t met personally, Tina has the Intentional Expat spirit written all over here. An American who got an MA in Germany and is now teaching English in none other than Western Mongolia, this is a woman who is taking life by the horns and living her best life abroad. Like she says in her “About Me” section of her blog: 

¨Three years and one M.A. later, I needed a new challenge, so I looked at a map and asked: “What is the worst decision I could possibly make?” And that is how I came to be in Mongolia: the best worst idea I ever had.¨

me

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where do you currently live, what do you do for work, what are your hobbies, what are you passionate about…?

My name is Tina, I’m 26, and I’m originally from New Jersey. Currently I live in Khovd, Western Mongolia, where I work as an English teacher. I’m an avid hiker and equestrian, and luckily, I’m in the perfect place to do both!

What motivated you to move abroad?

A lot of things! My family immigrated to the States before I was born, so I grew up very aware that there was a world outside America’s borders and feeling very in-between US culture and my parents’ culture. In college, I majored in anthropology and was really driven to see the world that I had been reading about in all my classes. So all of that, plus the fact that I was getting bored in America and wanted to see if I could hack it abroad. And the only way to find out was to do it.

Where all have you lived abroad?

My expat journey began when I studied abroad in Germany and Bolivia as an undergrad; I moved to Germany after graduating to improve my language skills enough to enroll in an MA program at a German university. I lived there for three years, with a short stint in Mexico for field research. Then I briefly moved back to the States for a few months so I could save up money, and now I’m in Mongolia.

What’s the most difficult part about living abroad? What’s the best part?

Dealing with the feelings of isolation that come from living on the other side of the planet from your closest friends and family.

What’s the best part?

The best part is the whole host of new experiences and people. And the stories. The stories you get are pretty good too.

What is your secret to keeping a positive attitude while living abroad?

Good friends, keeping myself interested and engaged, and the ability to call my family. Also, acknowledging that it’s okay to have crappy days where you’re culture-shocking, you’re not feeling your job, or you’re prepared to sell your soul for a Wawa and a car. Sometimes, you just need a day to sit in your pajamas and watch movies in order to emotionally prepare yourself to get up the next day and get back to meeting a world that’s so different from your own.

What´s the best place you´ve ever traveled to?

Ahhh, so hard! Cycling around Ireland with my best friend was an incredible way to see an Ireland that’s not on the tourist maps. In Mexico, we took a pickup truck up a mountain and found ourselves at a naturally-occurring infinity pool, which was both unexpected and super cool. In Bolivia, I went spelunking. And as an introduction to Mongolia, I spent two days driving across the country in what was probably the most brutal single journey I’ve ever taken, but also one of the most amazing. I can’t pick a single best place, I have favorite memories from all my travel destinations

Do you have a bucket list? Would you share with us a couple of things on that list?

My bucket list is mostly places I want to live: Iceland, Scotland, Mozambique, Sweden, Namibia, Argentina. The list expands more or less on a weekly basis.

Can you share one experience abroad that´s been truly ¨blogworthy?¨¨

One time, in Mexico, I almost got my friend and I trapped in a riot because somehow I missed the fact that the agitated crowd we were walking through were preparing to fight the police, and not have a party (or something). Somehow I got in my mind that the banging sounds we were hearing were a drum corps that I really wanted to stick around and watch—except my friend hurried us out of there, and I was so mad at her. Not five minutes after we left, the rubber bullets and teargas started flying. Later, watching the riot on television, she asked me, “So was there a reason you almost got us trapped in the riot?” “What riot? I wanted to watch the drum corps.” “Tina, that wasn’t a drum corps, those were cops in riot gear banging on their shields not fifty feet from us.” “Oh. Oops.”

Do you watch TED Talks?

Sadly, my internet isn’t good enough to stream videos anymore.

What advice do you have for people who are considering moving abroad, but are feeling doubtful? 

The first step is the hardest part—you just have to make yourself do it. Which is easier said than done, but truly, once you get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop. The challenge is getting the ball rolling—it’s so easy to logic yourself out of your plans to move abroad because it’s scary and far away and insert more reasons here. Don’t think, book a plane ticket. Now. Figure out the rest as you go.

Thanks so much Tina for reaching out and offering to be part of the Intentional Expat Interview Series! Your experience is proof that wherever in the world you are, there are great stories to be lived and that living your best life abroad is truly a matter of perspective. I´m definitely feeling inspired to get out there and travel to more places after hearing some of your stories and I¨m sure my readers are too!

Are you living abroad? Love to travel? or living at home and have exciting stories to share? If this sounds like you and you want to be featured in a future interview, send me an email 

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Author: Melissa

Born in the rainy, green Northwestern corner of the United States, Melissa relocated to the almost-always-sunny city of Madrid, Spain five years ago. After getting her master's degree, traveling to places her friends at home drooled about, falling in love with a Spaniard, and having her heart broken by said Spaniard, it's safe to say that she's learned firsthand about the less than glamorous side of living abroad. Thankfully, she gets to use this experience, along with her professional expertise, in her work as a mental health therapist in Madrid where she helps other expats learn to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of living abroad. This blog is designed to be informative and is in no way intended to serve as a substitute for therapy.

3 thoughts on “The Intentional Expat Interview Series: An English Teacher in Western Mongolia

  1. Great article! For those looking to learn about hundreds more people teaching English abroad in all parts of the world, here’s an index of Q&A’s and articles: http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/alumni-index-of-all-submissions

    Like

  2. This interview was great! Mongolia is definitely a different place to teach English.

    Like

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