I tend to think of myself as an expat rather than an immigrant. I hate the negative connotation we’ve given the word, but I also don’t believe it properly defines me.
For me, an expat is someone who leaves their country without a firm or forever destination in mind. An immigrant is someone who moves to a new country, puts down roots, and starts a new life. Chandler and I aren’t looking for a forever home just yet – we’re just enjoying our time living in new cultures and moving from one to the next.
It started when we met in Ethiopia – a culture that was fascinating, but one that we knew from the start we would never belong to. We served there for slightly more than two years, working with Peace Corps and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education.
After a brief stint (i.e. a year and a half), in the United States, we struck out again, this time for Ghana. We’ve been here nearly three years now and while we’ve learned so much about ourselves and Ghanaian culture, we’ve found ourselves a bit restless.
And that’s the beauty of our jobs and our lifestyle: We get to decide when it’s time to move on.
So we began the search for our new school (and new country) this summer. Long before jobs for the 2019-2020 school year were posted, we were researching schools, cities, taxes, quality of life, food, and more. We even made a priority chart to try and find what mattered most to us: Did we want a small school, a vibrant city, a PYP philosophy, a malaria-free location? There were a lot of factors to sort through.
Last time, when we got our jobs in Ghana, we had a simpler process. We flew to Iowa and attended the UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair. Beforehand, we made a much simpler list: Embassy-supported schools in cool cities. This time, we knew so much more.
Interestingly enough, we still hadn’t figured out the most important thing. So, end of October/beginning of November, we started interviewing with new schools. Some of these schools had made our list, others we were interviewing with merely for the experience. The schools came in all different shapes, sizes, and philosophies. Some were in incredible locations (Hong Kong), others less so (Saudi Arabia).
After each interview, we would grapple with the same questions: Were the positions right? Did they offer enough money? Could we picture ourselves living in the city? How many times did the interviewer ask me when I wanted to start having children? (I wish this last one was a joke.)
And then we had an interview that started with this simple question: Are you nice people?
And it was like everything clicked into place (and by that I mean we stressed out and talked about nothing else and questioned everything we had ever thought for the next week and half until we decided to sign our new contracts).
As many of you have probably already heard, come August 2019, we’ll be moving to Amman, Jordan. Some of our good friends already live there and some of our best friends will be moving there the same time we are.
Some of the best advice we got during this process was to find out what we value…and we did: Community.
It doesn’t hurt that Jordan is home to Petra, the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum; has amazing food; seasonal weather; a metropolitan capital; and IKEA : )
Amman also has one thing we never even thought to put on our priority chart: Our friends.