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Reflections On Expat Life: What I’ve Learned This Year & My Biggest Tips

Reflections On Expat Life: What I’ve Learned This Year & My Biggest Tips

2018 was the year I spent the furthest from “home” than ever before in my life. In fact, this past year is the first time I could officially call myself a true expat! I’ve spent many weeks of my life traveling, but never truly resettled in another country until this year.

I started 2018 in Myanmar, jetted over to China, then Scotland, Cuba, Sri Lanka, The Maldives, Bermuda, Seattle, Monaco, explored Armenia, Norway, moved to Paris and Rome, spent a few weeks in Egypt and Jordan… and somewhere in between it all, I learned a whole lot about myself and expatriate life. Today, I wanted to share some of my reflections on this past year and my biggest tips for anyone making the leap into expat life.

And if you’re looking for more tips on how to become an expat, I’m sharing all of my insight over at on Western Union’s “How To Become An Expat” blog post! Be sure to check it out.

Reflections On Expat Life: What I’ve Learned This Year & My Biggest Tips

Be Crystal Clear As To Why You Are Relocating

Despite what many will tell you – transitioning to another culture isn’t the hard part (at least in my opinion!) about relocating… it’s finding yourself in the mix of it. This year has been an incredible, transformative one for my own self development. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to really only have myself to answer to.

And that being said, it’s incredibly important for travelers to know the exact, clear cut reasons why they’re choosing to relocate their lives. It takes some serious self-evaluation before anyone should make the move across the world. Ask yourself “what exactly am I moving for?” – are you moving to find yourself, change a career, to experience a culture as a local?

Instead of jumping right in to finding your dream location, income, housing and visa applications… first and foremost, do your soul searching! Being set on your intentions makes everything more motivational and inspiring.

Making Friends Abroad

A major fear many travelers face, especially when going solo, is that they’ll never make real friendships while they’re exploring. I’ve actually found it to be completely opposite!

A great place to start is to book a few group tours or excursions. It’s a great way to make friends without the pressure. In your free time, ask a fellow traveler if you can tag along on their afternoon adventures if you have free time. More ideas on making friendships abroad here!

When all else fails – just ask a simple question! Lots of solo travelers meet just by asking something simple when in a restaurant. Remarking on how delicious a person’s meal was can bring about a lifelong friend. Who knows? You might just be meeting your new bestie.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your online community as well! I love to meet up with friends I’ve met through Dame Traveler and other online expat communities out there!

It’s The Little Things That Make A Distant Place Feel Like Home

Culture shock and home sickness have been two serious hurdles I have overcome this past year as an expat. But my biggest trick for making your home away from home feel more like “you” is simple.

Adding little familiar touches, like a candle or a book, really makes any space feel yours. Sentimental items into a new space makes any place feel intimate and cozy. After a long day of missing routines and structures of familiar places, seeing something that reminds me of my friends or family makes everything feel better.

Self care can look different to an expat too! One of my favorite days while abroad this past year was just cooking a simple, familiar meal my little apartment. Find out restaurants and flavors that remind you of home. When I was in Paris, there was an American diner and I used to always go there for comfort food which reminded me of home. It was my little slice of heaven on those hard days that came around every now and then!

The Best Part About Expat Life?

Well, for me? Growth. This past year I truly was able to immerse myself in the life changing opportunity to live life in an unfamiliar place. Through the challenges and hurdles, the beautiful moments of bliss and thrill, seeing the changing of the seasons and the chapters of my life unfold – I learned so much about myself.

Be sure to check out my interview with Western Union, where I’m sharing my other big tips for becoming an expat!

To the Dame Traveler expats reading this – what are some of your biggest lessons you’ve learned through relocating across the world?

This post is sponsored by Western Union. All opinions are my own.

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7 Unexpected Countries Perfect For Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is at the same time exciting and may be frightening. With so many cultures in the world, it’s easy to become scared you won’t fit in or understand the country you are studying in. But don’t let the fear stand in the way of meeting new people and experiencing something unique.

There are so many countries that are unexpectedly perfect for studying abroad, and here are some of them that might help you decide.

New Zealand

New Zealand may be the most famous for the shooting of Lord of the Rings movies, but this is also one of the most scenic countries in the world. Studying abroad is more than just picking the university, it also means you need to choose a place to live. Its University of Otago and the University of Auckland are only some of the examples of the fine education institutions the country has.

You will need a visa to study in New Zealand but you can easily check your eligibility on the official Study in New Zealand website. You can find accommodations in the dorm or house, although tertiary institutions offer apartments, as well.


Land of the Rising Sun is the country that you will need to get used to, especially if you are not familiar with the culture. So before you decide to study there, you have to be ready to respect certain traditions and rules in place which are the signs of respect. First of all, don’t ever be late for your classes since punctuality is really important in Japan, and you should text someone you’ll be late.

When looking for an apartment to rent, don’t be surprised with how small they are. Japanese people value the space very much and it might take you a while to get used to the economy of room here. Also, people here strive for excellence and they will feel free to give you advice and critic when needed, so don’t feel less worthy of it. They actually criticize because they want to help you become the best version of yourself, not because they don’t like you.

Lebanese Republic

The Lebanese Republic or Lebanon is a Mediterranean country with a rich history and is very influential in the Arab world. Its educational system is world-known for math and science, but also by the quality and management of schools. Additionally, international students come here because of that quality of professors and lecturers, campus facilities and support.

There are 41 universities in Lebanon and three of them are ranked among the world universities, namely, American University of Beirut (AUB), Universite Saint Joseph de Beyrouth and Lebanese American University. Arabic is the official language, but you can also use French on some occasions and English is being more and more popular.


When you think of Brazil, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the Carnival in Rio. However, this colorful country has a lot more to offer than enchanting music and rhythms. Sao Paolo is the largest city and economic and commercial center of Brazil. This is a modern Brazilian city offers many summer programs that are a good start for those who are not ready to commit to a full year of studying abroad here.

Some study abroad programs offer special education regarding history, sociology and many other cultural studies that will help you get to know Brazil. In order to study in Brazil, you have to know the Portuguese Language which is also offered as a course for international students.


Australia is perfect for studying since its universities are among the best ones in the world. The country offers a wide range of places to study, from rural to metropolitan cities, so make sure you know where you want to go. You will also need a visa if you plan to study more than three months, but you don’t have to the embassy and wait for it since it’s done online.

Also, the grading system in Australia is different, for example, “D” is for distinction and comes after “HD” which is a high distinction. The seasons can surprise many since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, meaning that when in Paris is summer, in Sydney is winter. So make sure to check apartment rental Sydney offers and have one in place so you can warm up and rest to avoid jet lag.


Mauritius is a small island state which is a wonderful mix of Asian, African and European cultures. Populated by peaceful people and consisting of amazing scenery, this is the country that will take your breath away. English is the official language, although you will hear French as well.

Citizens of Mauritius have free education, but as an international student, you will have to pay the tuition or apply for scholarships. The most popular fields of study are IT, Medicine, Dentistry, Management, Engineering, Psychology and Fashion, and Design.


Israel may be a small country, but its population is the second most educated in the world. Besides the regular study programs, the universities offer special semesters to international students, as well as Hebrew language courses. The first bachelor’s degree in English started in 2001 which marked a new era for the educational program in Israel.

Moreover, Israel is not too expensive so you won’t have to spend more than usual on food. It has a well-developed public transportation system you can use to travel around. International presence is high in Israel and you don’t have to know Hebrew to get by.

In The End

When you look for the perfect country for studying abroad, you have to take into consideration not only the educational system but also the culture. Additionally, find out about the regulations for international students and see if there are any scholarships you can apply to. And don’t be afraid to meet new people and get to know knew traditions – it will all be a fun part of the international student life.

Advice Expat

5 Countries Who Will Pay You To Live There

Although there are numerous people who would love to explore and live in new places, many do not have the funds. However, there are countries that will actually pay you to move to their country. While there are prerequisites in some cases, most countries offer a great opportunity for a new lifestyle and culture. For instance, some countries will lower your bills and taxes for making the move. Other countries provide prompt financial incentives to finance your startup adventure.

Here are just a few to give you an idea of the numerous opportunities:

If you just graduated from college and are intrigued by Saskatchewan, this offer could be ideal. The town is offering tuition reimbursements for amounts up to $20,000 Canadian dollars (CAD). This is the equivalent of $15,956 U.S. Dollars (USD). To qualify, you must be a college graduate in 2010 or after. Compensation is presented in the form of non-refundable tax credit and is paid out in segments up to ten years.


If you are looking to begin a startup business, then Chili may be ideal. They will pay you $50,000 to begin your startup there. On the other hand, your startup needs to have the potential of becoming a huge global success. During the first six months you have to reside in Chili. In addition to the funds, you will be granted a one year work visa and a list of business contacts. Other benefit is that everything is in English.


This country wants to attract worldwide entrepreneurs. If you feel that your startup has a large growth probability, you can apply for funding with Enterprise Ireland. If and when accepted, you are rewarded with thousands of funds and the opportunity to live and work in Ireland. Keep in mind, Ireland is renowned for its deluxe standard of living and low tax rates for new businesses.

New Zealand

Although you do not get paid actual money, the town of Kaitangata offers a new home with a fourth acre of land for $230,000 New Zealand Dollars (NZD). This is equal to $165,000 USD. Generally these same house market for about $394,482 USD. This is due to a shortage of people in an area that has approximately 1,000 jobs in that region.

Thailand, Korea or Vietnam

These three countries offer very similar programs and ways of life. Respectively, each is always in search of people from the United States and Europe to teach English as well as other subjects. Although Korea pays the best, Thailand and Vietnam have a lower cost of living. As well, Thailand and Vietnam have been growing economically and increasingly competitive. Many of the programs also offer air flight costs to your destination and back when the teaching position is finished.

United States

Since the economic crash of the housing market during the late 2000’s, numerous cities have huge incentives to buy homes. For instance, Detroit Michigan has the Live Midtown and Live Downtown programs that provide money for rent, home improvements and a home. Other U.S. cities with similar incentives include Harmony, MN; Niagara Falls, NY, most of Kansas and all of Alaska.

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