- January 6, 2016
- Posted by: Jamie Braddock
- Category: Bespoke
It’s a question I asked myself often. Should I move away? Is there more out there for me? Will I be as comfortable there as I am here?
I thought I was having a quarter-life crisis, but the more I considered it and discussed it with friends, the more real it became. I have just celebrated my 6 month migration anniversary, sitting on a beach, pale skinned and freckle ridden, 10,000 miles from where I was born – so the answer for me was ‘Yes, I should move abroad’.
“If it is to be, then it is up to me”
I won’t lie to you and say there have been no challenges, no doubts, no tantrums, and no tears, but I am still confident I have made the right decision, and I’m still loving what for me is just the start of my journey.
During this adventure I have met many, many people that at one stage or another have asked these exact same questions, and if you are reading this then I assume you have too.
I believe myself to be very fortunate with what I have experienced and what I do for a living, largely just for the people I get to meet and converse with. One such lady is Pat Kozyra, a published educator with 50 years experience and author of “Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers, celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned”. Pat, originally from Canada, now resides in Hong Kong. As fellow migrants it didn’t take long for us to move on to a discussion around our experiences, and Pat very kindly agreed to provide a brief account of her experience for those pondering an adventure to consider…
Greetings from Hong Kong! Pat Kozyra here, the other side of a very big step.
It was at a time in our lives when we could not see further opportunities for teaching in our own country, Canada, and we were not at all ready to retire. With that catalyst, we applied for teaching positions in Hong Kong. We had never been to Hong Kong and barely knew anything about it. So after arming ourselves with videos and books galore, we gleaned an awareness of what Hong Kong might be like. Then we took the first step, and that was to apply for some key teaching positions. Earlier on in our life, we had made a definite decision that if we ever again applied for any out-of-country positions and if only one of us got the job, we would take it anyway, without any hesitation and move together. Why? A couple of times in former years, we had applied for overseas-teaching with DND (Department of National Defense) in two cities in Germany. Each time, only one of us was accepted and we declined the offer. Wrong move!! We learned that when that happened to others, and both went, the spouse who was not hired, soon got supply-teaching and eventually made it to the full-time teaching staff. We had learned our lesson.
As you might have guessed, only I was hired for a Hong Kong position, but we both packed up and left anyway. We sold our home, all our possessions, and divested ourselves of certain rights, benefits and privileges for the duration of our stay in Hong Kong. Yes, we can have all of those re-instated when we return to Canada. We consulted an expert accountant and we read books published expressly to help us transition to living in another country. (e.g. Canadians Living Abroad) It is so important to gain knowledge about all the legal aspects so that you are not hit with big surprises later on down the road. We saw this happen time and time again to colleagues and friends here in Hong Kong – some, with dire consequences. One example is the rules applying to your visa. Where can you work? Can your spouse work too if he/she does not have a visa? Can you sponsor your spouse? How much work is the spouse allowed to do? Are you allowed to volunteer? How old must you be when you retire? Is there a union to protect you? How many countries do you have to pay taxes to? Does your school give a gratuity after so many years?
Once we arrived in Hong Kong, my husband soon found supply-teaching, and then went on to fill some part-time vacancies as lecturer and teacher- evaluator with the Faculty of Education, as a Senior English Specialist in a high school, as a Vice Principal in an international school and then as a Principal of an international school. My positions in the past fourteen years have been Learning Specialist, Head of Pre-School, Grade One teacher and Music teacher. I have also been the weekly soloist at a large church in Hong Kong for the past 14 years. I am now tutoring a few students privately, am a free-lance writer for the South China Morning Post, The Epoch Times, STEM Magazine and other magazines that feature articles for parents. I am a motivational speaker and give workshops to parents and teachers on a wide variety of topics, including Giftedness which was my area of expertise for 15 years in Canada.
We do not believe for a moment that we would have had any similar positions of responsibility or opportunities of a similar kind, had we stayed in Canada. Our children were all happy for us and proud that we took these steps in our “old” age. They say you should not move just to live near your children because just as soon as you do, they may move elsewhere anyway. Moving to Hong Kong gave our children the opportunity to visit a foreign land that they might have never thought of visiting.
Here are some other positive things that might happen when one does choose to pull up stakes and start a new life in another country – “home is where your pillow is!”
You may like it so much that you stay for the required number of years to become a permanent resident and that can afford benefits as well. You may have many more opportunities to travel, have more unique experiences and expand your knowledge. The weather may be so much more agreeable to you. It might be a more healing climate for you. (I never realized just how much I hated the cold and snow of Canada!) I am still in disbelief each morning when I do my daily walk along the ocean and look at those orchid trees. (I know the cost of an orchid corsage in Canada.) You may be able to be financially more secure and this can also help your children and your grandchildren. You may benefit from a lighter taxation policy in your new country and get ahead faster because of it. There may be fewer stringent rules on the retirement age which can also work to your benefit. You may be single and have many more opportunities to meet someone new.
So what is stopping you? Most of my life I have been guided by ten two- letter words and they are: IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME! In other words, you have to make it happen. No one else can do it for you. Ask yourself what the worst thing would be if you made such a life-altering decision. Most teachers who are teaching in another country say how much they are appreciated and how rewarding teaching others of another country is. Education is truly valued!
It is really amazing how soon you adjust to a new culture and learn to cope in a country that does not speak your language. You may even decide to learn a new language or take on a new religion. One of the schools I taught at was a Jewish International School. What a learning curve for me to experience so much about the Jewish faith, culture and traditions.
I came from a house in Canada with two acres, a swimming pool, a tennis court, and a kitchen with two chopping blocks in it. I could put the flat I live in now inside that kitchen. Yes, I have to be honest that I do long for an oven. It is probably what I miss the most about having to cook on two burners, but I think we all can agree there are worse things for sure.
Best wishes with your thoughts of a new venture, a new opportunity, and a new life. The positive aspects certainly do outweigh the negatives ones by a long shot.
Pat is from a different place to me, is from a different generation to me, and lives in a country I’ve never seen more of than the airport – yet our experiences have remarkable similarities, and are also echoed in uncountable conversations with fellow POMS.
There are definitely times I questioned the decision, situations I would handle differently, shoes I won’t pack and never wear, and many mistakes that next time I will try and avoid, but, ultimately, I survived. I’m happy, I’m more experienced, and even a tiny bit red-ish-brown. And hey, if I decide further down the line that this whole thing was a mistake, then home is only a ever going to be a plane ride away.
If you would like to talk more in depth about inter-continent migration, or just pick my brains about my experiences and things I have learned then feel free to send me a message and I will do my best to help you out.
To find out more about Pat’s 50 years then you can purchase “Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers, celebrating 50 years in the classroom and sharing what I have learned” from Amazon, Barnes, or Noble.