Another Year, Another Summer: Back to Texas

I feel like I blinked and the 2017-2018 academic year was over. It feels like just yesterday I was returning to Spain for my second year of teaching English as a foreign language in a small town north of Madrid. With another year of wonderful experiences, exciting travel, new discoveries, and fond memories under my belt, I’m off to Texas again for a summer at home.

On a field trip with my students in my first month of teaching.

The summer transition is an interesting one. Last year, reverse culture shock slapped me right in the face. I’m not sure we fully realize all the changes we’ve undergone until we return to a place we’ve been away from for awhile. That’s what going home was for me – the realization that I had changed, coupled with the realization that home didn’t feel quite the way I had expected it to.

Having these realizations is important, but it can be a difficult experience. From my time at home last summer, I know that the way for me to tackle it best is to fill my summer with meaningful projects and experiences. Putting my time, energy, and passion into things helps me readjust anywhere, anytime. Here’s how I’ll be doing it this time around:

1) Focus on the Future

While I’m home, I’ll also have my eye on the horizon. Next year, I’ll be returning to Spain to study Spanish and complete some internship work in the field of international education, and there is plenty to prep for that. I’ll also continue researching graduate school programs and planning visits accordingly.

2) Remember to Stay Present, Too

Focusing on the future doesn’t mean trying to live there. While I’m prepping for my next steps, I’ll also stay connected to the here and now by spending time with friends from home, my family, and the places I’ll be during the summer. After all, my time at home is pretty limited these days, and I want to enjoy it.

The view from home in Texas.

3) Give Yourself Some Structure

As appealing as a fully relaxed summer at home might sound, I know I’d get about a week in and go stir crazy. I know that, especially for me, structure is really important. I need to have something to put time and energy into consistently. This is why I’ll be working in my small town’s Visitor’s Center for the second summer in a row. My projects are always different and there is always something to do – a perfect fit to help me transition back to being at home.

4) Make Some Exciting Plans

Life abroad is a whirlwind – I travel much more than I would otherwise. Because most things are unfamiliar, I have new experiences more often. One of the challenges of moving home for a summer is that most things are familiar. There is so much comfort in that, but it can also feel like a huge drop-off from what I’m used to. Last summer, I was glad I saved a little time and money to travel. I’m looking forward to a couple of small trips this summer, too. It helps keep things dynamic.

5) Use the Time to Reflect

Going home is a great opportunity to reflect on your past year. What were your biggest accomplishments? How did you grow? What do you want to change moving forward? Returning to your roots gives you the chance to answer these questions and more. Take that insight into whatever your next steps might be. It’s always been easier for me to process things like this from a distance.

However you’ll be spending your summer and whatever changes you might be making in your life moving forward, summer is a great time for transition and change. I’m looking forward to spending my upcoming weeks in Texas and enjoying a bit of home before I go back to Spain for year three!


by Emma Schultz

Reverse Culture Shock: An Experience Upon Returning Home

Before moving to Madrid, I had traveled abroad regularly. So I assumed that coming back after a year away would be a breeze. But was it? 

It wasn’t. I found it a challenge to assign a sufficient descriptor to my internal conflicts once I was Stateside again. Since then I found solace in the term “Reverse Culture Shock.” This validated that I was not alone in my experiences despite it being not oft talked about. Reverse culture shock is real.


Moving Back Home


Upon my return from Madrid, I enjoyed the “honeymoon” phase of moving to Washington State and back in with my parents. Before relocating to Spain, I had been living in Texas for seven years. In that time we would have occasional holidays or family meet-ups. Otherwise, we spent little time together. This was my chance then to fulfill a yearning for increased quality time with my dear family. Initially, we had the typical family celebrations, friend reunions, and lots of recreational activities in the great PNW (Pacific Northwest). And I quickly found a new appreciation for my home state. I spent a lot of time putting my Discover Pass to use at hiking trails all over the Columbia Basin, near Seattle, and even on an overnight camp trip in the Olympic National Forest. When you’re in “(f)unemployment” it all seems like a dream.

It was pretty amazing at first; I am not going to lie. However, once I stabilized I fell back into the monotonous transactional activities of life and that’s when it really hit me hard! My outdoor adventuring soon became a refuge from my growing discontentment and feelings of isolation. My next hike or solo road trip couldn’t come soon enough.

Subtle Cultural Differences

Things like a tax on top-of-item purchases and tipping at restaurants bothered me way more than they should have- I felt like I was being lied to, that I was being bamboozled. A flurry of questions and varied emotions would come rushing in. I felt deceived every time I went out to make purchases. Why do we tip? Why must we charge a hidden tax on top of the retail cost? Do I really have to do monkey math as I peruse aisles to determine how much this is all going to REALLY cost me? It was frustrating that we couldn’t just have items priced wholly like I had grown accustomed to. I found myself keeping purchases to a bare minimum and intentionally avoiding contact with establishments. Over time, I developed a deep loathing of the taxation and tipping philosophy of our culture.

Managing Perspectives Through Articulation

I also grappled with how to articulate the incredible experiences that had broken down my belief systems, expanded my mind, and reshaped my existence. Finding the balance between “preachy and snooty” and properly representing my experience was an internal battle I was fighting. So, instead of speaking, I spent hours compiling a photo album. I wrote stories on the back of pictures and encouraged viewers to ask questions. This became my voice and the outlet that I was lacking. I had become muted, withheld, or inauthentic in representing my experiences.

Finding the New Old Me


My last major roadblock was to willingly embrace again the life I had cultivated prior to my year abroad. How do I go back to my “old” life without feeling like I’m settling for mediocrity? How do I commit myself back to the 8 to 5 rat race?  Facing aggressive drivers, one-way hour-long commutes, and friends who always seemed too busy to play was a challenge.  It was especially difficult as those were the things that made me seek an alternative lifestyle in the first place. I had to question if wanderlust provided  a sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle as I identified more with life abroad then the “home(s)” I had known previously.


I had to alter my perception to one of gratitude for all the beautiful things I do have. It made me acknowledge that a rooted life and doing work I truly enjoy is not me settling. Rather, it is me committing to the things that afford me the life I honestly want. I still wanted to travel. But I also wanted to be a wife, bear children (God-willing), and simply enjoy unforeseen beauties that come from everyday “monotonous” living. I chose to view things through a lens of grace and joy in order to find happiness in a non-wanderlust-obsessed life.

If you’d like more resources, be aware that Dreams Abroad is filled with people like me who would love to talk to you. We can help you through various challenges, celebrate your successes, and be a support system. When you feel like no one could possibly relate, we can.

P.S. Here is a link regarding Reverse Culture Shock that may provide some more insights not covered in my article.

by Morgan Yearout

Independence Day in Medellin, Colombia


It was Summer 2015. I was packing for my first summer abroad where I would be doing an internship to complete my master’s degree. It was July 4th and I was traveling alone on an international flight for the first time to Medellin, Colombia. It seemed so surreal to leave the U.S. on a holiday that was so special – not only to our nation but to me as well. Since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed the holiday. At the time, I hadn’t fully recognized the depth of what the holiday meant for the nation. However, I made my own meaning and memories each year. Many of those childhood memories are still vivid in my mind and lasting in my heart. As I get older, time spent means more to me – especially time with family and friends.


Independence Day in Colombia


I arrived in Medellin, Colombia on the Fourth of July, 2015. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was absolutely terrified. This Independence Day wasn’t going to be one that I had ever experienced. I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into. I felt extremely excited to be there.

At the same time, I also felt the bottomless questions bubbling up in my mind. They all began with “what if…” This was in part because of the rumors I had heard about the city: “It’s a drug town!” and, “You are going to get killed!” I was also scared of not letting go of myself – or having freedom. I wanted the freedom to just be. So, there I was on the Fourth of July, in another country, not knowing how to be free because I was terrified.

Success Abroad

I didn’t know how to speak the language very well (yet). Whatever I did know was being stifled because of fear. I was inhibiting my own chance at success because of fear. I took a deep breath and walked downstairs in the airport. The front desk security guard looked at me and I looked at him. We both said, “hola,” and “hello,” at the same time. He started rapping at me in Spanish so fast that I couldn’t get my mind fixated on what I wanted to ask him. I smiled and quickly said, “¡Gracias!

I was tired from my flight and started to think, what should I ask next? How do I get groceries? Where is the closest place to buy food? Where am I? Who am I? What’s my name? Suddenly things that I thought I knew how to ask for in Spanish weren’t coming to mind! All that practice with Lee, my tutor, before I left came flashing in front of me. I could see Lee! I could see him saying, ¿Donde esta la tienda?


Getting Grounded

No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t say it! Why was I feeling this helpless? Not to mention, I felt completely clueless. The airport driver dropped me off in front of my building. He said I would have an event later that day… I never thought I would have felt so clueless! Evelio the receptionist and security guard, the man who wore two hats (arguably three or four) and I were just staring at one another. We were lost in translation. I looked at him and said, “hasta luego,” and waved. He looked at me and gave me a smile.


Luckily, later that evening there was a barbeque with a group of the interns. Here, I would meet and speak with others from around the world. I soon found out that I wasn’t the only one who felt a bit nervous. Nevertheless, I was the only intern working on her master’s and in her 30s. But, that didn’t stop me from making new friends.

On a Quest of Independence

Pause… stop. I met my soon-to-be best friend at this barbeque. This is history: an Independence Day historical moment. I not only was on a quest for independence in my own right, but I also met one of the dearest people in that process. I didn’t know it at the time, but my holiday away from home in Medellin would soon be the beginning of a very special friendship. Now, every year around the Fourth of July (or close to it), it represents a symbolic anniversary for our friendship. A day of courage, a day of personal freedom, of national freedom, and of the joining of two very different people on the journey of a lifetime. Luis and I are forever friends joined by the epic lifetime event in both our lives – a summer internship abroad in Medellin, Colombia.


by Leesa Truesdell

Five Reasons Why Expats Move Abroad

relax complacency travel expat abroad

We all have it at one point. That little voice in our heads that started out as a raspy whisper saying, “Just move. You can do it.” Some of us immediately accepted it and moved abroad. Others let that nagging voice grow into a roaring, “JUST MOVE ALREADY. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO. DO IT. DO IT. JUST DO IT.” And so, we did.

In the grand Expat World, we all have our specific reasons for leaving our home countries. I cannot say with certainty that these reasons are applicable to everyone. I can say with positivity that the following are reasons that my fellow expat friends and I have in common. One way or another, these five reasons pushed us to throw our lives into some suitcases (how some of you people only used a backpack, I will never know) and leave everything we knew for anything new.

1. Complacency Isn’t in Our Vocabulary When Expats Move Abroad

I have some friends who have never had a passport. Some have never left their hometowns. Others married their high school sweethearts and bought a home close to mom and dad. Many have lived in the same city their whole lives and could not imagine living anywhere else. For these people, those are their dreams, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, for an expat, that seems like a nightmare. We cannot fathom staying in one place consistently forever, surrounded by familiarity and comfort.  We crave change – we desire inconsistency. Moving abroad helped us step out of the “typical routine” and create our own, crazy life that revolves around one concept: avoiding the same ol,’ same ol’ norm.

2. Obviously, Travel

Duh. We don’t just talk the talk; we walk the walk! Seriously, don’t just talk about, “oh, maybe one day it would be really cool to see Paris and explore the French streets and food scene.” We are about that travel life! We will buy that ticket, by any means necessary, and go. It isn’t in our nature to make those it’ll never actually happen plans. Travel is that one craving we can never satiate. We want to see, experience, live, and enjoy it all. Honestly, who doesn’t? Lots of people want to see the world and feel the wanderlust fever. What’s the difference between them and us? We will get up, do it in a heartbeat, and have no fear or regrets about it. It’s like Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” And we are damn determined to get through that whole library.

airplane travel abroad move expat

 3. Opportunities That Just Don’t Exist at Home When Expats Move Abroad

No one wants to read me ramble on about the specifics here, so let’s just do this in list form, shall we?

  1. Foodie experiencesfoodie expat world
  2. Language immersion
  3. Friends from different parts of the globe
  4. Fresh baguettes (this is a personal one that is not applicable to all, my bad)
  5. Significantly cheaper education programs
  6. Cultural exposure
  7. Country-hopping
  8. Certain sporting events
  9. Architectural views
  • Lit Instagram stories (again, a personal one)

The list really continues on, but I’m trying to keep this a reader-friendly post and not crush you with too much at once.

4. Inner Peace, Discovery, and More Spiritual Things

peace sign complacency

Now, there is a certain kind of growth that happens when you move abroad. You leave everything you know, lose all sense of having a “comfort zone,” don’t know anyone or anywhere in your new place, and somehow need to manage to survive. It’s the biggest spiritual journey you’ll ever take. You have no choice but to find out who you are and what makes you at peace when you’re in a situation like that. I learn that back home, many external things made me happy, but abroad? I had to learn all the internal things that could make me happy, and that is a huge life lesson. Out here, you’re dependent on you and no one else. You really can’t rely on a certain person, a specific place, or any familiarity because it doesn’t exist when you first move abroad. And to sit and build all these things from scratch shapes that inner you in ways non-expats can never understand.

5. Freedom To Be Us

This encompasses so much. Sometimes back home, I felt I had to mold to societal norms. I would meet someone for the first time and quickly be asked, “So, what do you do?” and the pressure of fitting into whatever social group immediately overtook me. There was so much focus on a person’s educational degree, financial status, living situation, and social ranking, that sometimes a sense of who you are feels like it doesn’t even matter. But, while you’re abroad? It feels as if all those weights simply are lifted off your shoulders. When people meet an immigrant (because let’s face it, that’s what we are), they are more interested in your storrather than your social ranking. I will tell you right now, that is the most liberating feeling I have ever had.

mountain freedom

5 Reasons Why Expats Move Abroad

As I mentioned before, there are many other reasons why the expat community ends up wherever they are, but these are the most common reasons I’ve found amongst my fellow expats here. We needed to change, see the world, seize opportunities, discover ourselves, and just be free. Without moving abroad, we would have never grown into the people we are today. We could never even imagine what life would have been like had we not taken the leap moving abroad.

by Bebe Bakhtiar

A Globe Trotter’s Take on the World Cup 

by Carlos Balbuena

Who came up with the idea of gathering 20 people, giving them a black-and-white spotted ball of leather filled with air, and told them: go on, kick the ball until you push it through this line. Oh, and you can’t use your hands. The only one allowed to use his hands is this dude right here who will use them to stop you from kicking the ball through the line. 


It sounds so simple. And yet, the outcome has been so beautiful. There’s no other sport with the summoning capacity of football. Football is about belonging. Belonging to a community, the team you support, and the nation you’re from. It’s about tenacity, tactic and skill. But it is also about millions and millions of earnings via merchandising, stadium attendance, tv transmission contracts, advertisements, and publicity.  

Football is Life 

Football is entertainment. It’s a gigantic business. However, football is also a way of life. It’s something similar to a religion for lots of people. Football, in other words, has become (through many years) a global, social phenomenon. Every football country lives it differently. But if there’s something these football-loving countries have in common, it’s a pure, infatuated passion for this beautiful sport. The world, as far as football fans are concerned, stops for an entire month every four years.  


Expectations for the World Cup builds up with every passing year. When the World Cup is only a few weeks away – like right now – the hype is huge: people buy their team’s shirt, contract TV cable to watch it, and plan reunions with friends to watch games. It’s a common topic of conversation between friends, and an awesome ice breaker between groups. As the day comes closer, most of our discussion mainly dwells in who’s going to play for the national squad. We talk about the players who want to be there. Ultimately, the manager has the decision. However, the whole country discusses whom he should and shouldn’t take to Russia.  

The Most Important Event of the Year 


The sports broadcast channels talk about the World Cup 24/7. They talk about the drama of the injured players at risk of losing the world cup. They talk about the Russian cities that will host the matches, Russian culture, the main candidates and the so-called black horse of the competition. This is a way to learn about a new country, and a possible destination for your next travel destination. Russia will do it’s best to show us the best they have. They’ll put on a great show to show the world their way of life, their culture, and their beautiful landscapes. Being a host of the World Cup puts you in the spotlight. It’s a great way to expose your country as a brand or as a product for people to see and consume.  

Television sports broadcasters talk a lot about the sport, of course, but they also send reporters to show us Russia, in this case. TV, at least in México, tries to immerse the spectator as much as possible. They send reporters just to cover museums, clubs, landscapes and everything else a country could offer. México is a huge football-loving country. I’ve heard many times that México takes more interest in football than worrying about more important issues, like elections. During the World Cup, we will elect a new president. And still, the World Cup gets as much attention, or possibly even more, as this major political event.  

Build Up for the Big Day 

All in all, this event is so hyped for the fans that we simply can’t wait anymore! It’s the biggest sporting event besides the Olympics. I feel that the World Cup Series is even more popular than the Olympics. Football reaches millions of people. It reaches people that range from amateur players dreaming of the big leagues, to fans like me: awful players, but passionate followers nonetheless.  


As a famous player once said, “football is the most important thing amongst the non-important things.” This can be easily proved if I tell you that the last World Cup was seen by 3.2 billion people by TV alone. That statistic doesn’t include the spectators that traveled to Brazil to watch the games live. So yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. Regardless, it’s still just another form of entertainment. Albeit, it’s arguably the biggest event in the world. And us fans, were eager to hear the starting whistle! 

Check out my next post about the World Cup!

The Next Chapter: Life After Spain


“Cada uno escribe su destino con sus actos y no tienes que dejar que los demás te lo escriban .”  -Spanish Proverb

I have been taking notes and making edits to this post for the past seven months. It is hard to believe that back when I was just getting settled into my second Spanish apartment I was already thinking about what to do once I leave. Alas, it is what must be done.

There was so much to consider once I decided to leave Spain and not stay another year. I decided to break the problem down based on my five-year goals and the best course to achieve those goals. Now that I have lived abroad and traveled to many countries, I know I definitely want a career where I have the option of traveling. There are so many routes to being a “digital nomad” or someone who works remotely. It allows them the freedom to live anywhere in the world as long as they have an Internet connection.


Realize What’s Important To You


With this in mind, I have ruled out some options that might work for others, but for myself, aren’t the priority. These last two years have helped me realize that as much as I miss my family and friends, I can always get in touch with them wherever I am. I can always stay close to them whenever I’m working in the USA, too. I also realized that I do love living in a vibrant city. As much of an annoyance as it is to always be surrounded by thousands of people, it is outweighed by the closeness of everything and how easy it is to connect with others.

After much consideration, I have decided to return to the USA for no more than a couple of years until I can develop my skills as a web developer. I want to be able to financially support myself without having to work at an office. I will be living near family and friends so I will have the support I need to focus on my goals.

Change Can Be Difficult

This is all to say that it is still hard to stay in the present and focus on the fact that I am still in Madrid. I’m really sad about the notion that I’ll be leaving everything around me: Spanish friends, my students, my co-teachers, my morning commute, the cafe I get lunch from a couple times a week. They will all be a memory very shortly.

am still taking Spanish lessons (with what seems like little progress) and it still feels as if it is all a waste. I am also studying web development for several hours a day to prepare for my mid- and long-term goals. However, I’ve decided to focus on the aspects of living in Spain that I thoroughly enjoy in order to make the most of my time. This means more cañas (beers) and walks around the city for the time being!

Looking to the Future, Life After Spain

Now that I have a plan on enjoying what’s left of my time in Spain, I’ve decided to spend only an hour or two every few weeks on the actual logistics of returning to the USA. The first thing to always consider is my budget. As much as I love my life in Spain, it comes at the expense of my bank account (quite literally!). As an auxiliar I make enough to live in Madrid, but certainly not enough to hit the ground running back in California. Thankfully, I have friends that are willing to help me until I get on my feet. For most people who are moving back home, staying with family for a few months is common. It’s a good way to re-acclimate to living in USA.

As my time in Madrid comes to a close, I think of the times I’ve turned a random corner in Madrid and just had to stop and look at the beauty ahead. It does stir a mix of emotions, but I now have a plan to focus on the steps I can take after I leave Spain. This frees up mental space to live in the present and understand that life is a journey. I have made amazing connections here in Spain, whether it be with my coworkers, students, friends or the culture as a whole. My goal when I came to Spain was to figure out what mattered to me most and to not be afraid to pursue those dreams even in the face of adversity. When I look at my time in Spain from that perspective, I have achieved my goal. It’s time for the next chapter.


by Justin Hughes-Coleman

An Underground Trip to Paris

by Cassidy Kearney

It was 6:30 in the morning and we had a train to catch. My group piled onto the bus outside of our hotel in London and we took our last looks at our first city abroad. We were dropped off at one of London’s cornerstones: Kings Cross Station. It was enormous. It was exactly like an airport but flat, which was unexpected. This would be the first train ride I’d ever taken.

Kings Cross Station in London

We had about three hours to kill once we’d gotten to the station and past security. Dounia and I explored all the shops and went up and down and around the station while we killed time. I exchanged my pounds into euros, not caring about the exchange rate. I didn’t want to run around in our first non-English-speaking country with no money.

Our train arrived and I boarded, towing my suitcase, my new copy of The Hobbit, and my travel journal. My heart was beating and I kept poking Dounia, telling her how excited I was for my first train ride. She rolled her eyes at me but grinned. She reminded me that we’d be underground for a majority of the time. I didn’t care. An underground train?????? How could this get any cooler?!

A Trip Underground

We settled into our seats. There were four of them facing one another, with a table in the middle. I gave Dounia the window seat because she’s a lot shorter than I am and I could easily peer over her shoulder. The conductor called “All aboard,” And we were off!


The train quickly dove its way underneath the English Channel, and the windows showed nothing but black. I still thought it was cool that we were underground, but it was a little dull to do nothing but stare into a blank window for the hours-long train ride we had before us. I spent a good portion of it reading and writing about the rest of my London adventures in my travel journal.

Trip-to-Paris-France-Eiffel-tower-travel-abroadBehind us was the bar cart. As the train ride went on, more and more people collected in it. By the time we emerged from underneath the Channel, there was a regular party happening behind us! Bill passed by me with a can of olives and a slice of a baguette. I raised my eyebrows and asked. He pointed at the amassing French party behind us.

I slipped back and grabbed my olives. I tried to listen in on the French conversations that surrounded me, but my two college classes of French left me ill-prepared. I was a little disappointed but happily returned to my seat to snack.

Arriving in Paris

After watching rolling hills dotted with sheep, we finally arrived in Paris. Nikos told us that the railroad workers were striking and that traffic was blocked all around the station. We were going to have to walk a few blocks to our bus.

Once we shuffled on, our Parisian tour guide introduced herself as we drove around the city. She apologized for the strike, telling us that striking was Parisian’s favorite pastime. We quickly stopped at the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. We finished our tour at a popular city garden. Afterward, we got back onto our bus and we were driven to the northern part of Paris to our first hostel of the trip.

Paris-France-lion-travel-abroadOne Key, One Bathroom, Six Girls

Our hostel was three floors with one elevator (the tiniest I’ve ever seen). Nikos explained to us that the hostel only had one key per room, so if we all left, we should leave the key in the lobby. Dounia and I were assigned to a room on the third floor with four other girls. There was a pigeon plucking its way across our open window when we arrived.

There were three bunk beds in our mid-sized room. Fortunately, each bunk space had an outlet so each visitor could conveniently charge their devices. I still didn’t know many of our group members, and I don’t remember specifically who I shared the room with. I do remember that we were all starving and cranky. We immediately left to go find a place to eat.


After wandering around the streets of suburban northern Paris, we finally settled on a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop. Everyone attempted ordering through gesturing and pointing. I went last, and I got to try ordering in French for the first time! I think the shopkeeper seemed relieved, but I could just be inflating my own ego!

We quickly ran back to the hotel to prepare for the evening’s activities, which I’ll talk about in my next post!


Transcend into Traveling

by Carlos Balbuena

I heard that immortality is boring, although I don’t remember where I heard that. All I know is that I don’t agree with that sentence. I think the problem with immortality, at least as a human being, is that every single thing humans do is because of death. We busy ourselves from here to there because we know there will be a moment when we can’t go from here to there.

Time helps us be aware of the fragility of our existence. We act in order to give our life a meaning – an objective in the little time that we possess. So no, immortality would not be boring. It would make action sterile. The whole purpose of movement would cancel. Aristotle saw time as movement: things were born and then died. He called the time lapse between birth and death corruption, which is essentially movement. Life is movement. It’s a big beautiful moving thing between two layers of nothingness.

time clock

Life is Possibility

Life is possibility, death is finite. We grasp the idea of an afterlife, but we have no guarantees. I believe in an ever-after, but faith is personal. In the end, all we have is now. Even if we don’t think about it, the idea of the end lies within us. We cope with it; it’s no big deal. There’s nothing to fear in dying – the real tragedy is not really living.

Life is being responsible: being aware of ourselves, what we want in life, and getting to know the real you. Life is about being aware of the weight of existential liberty. That is, being able to do or not do with the full awareness of the extent and impact of our actions. We, as mortals, are amazingly free because we die. Therefore, we have to make our life a poem until death.  Success is getting old, looking back and being satisfied with the pictures that you see in your head. It is dying and being remembered by your loved ones… because loved ones… they never really go. They just cease to live. This is not the same as ceasing to exist. They live through us.

Living to Travel map helocopter

Immortality is not the same as eternity. We, humans, seek eternity, though we confuse it with the former. Immortality is, essentially, not dying. Eternity exists way beyond our time, not necessarily living. In other words, looking for immortality is wanting to not die, while looking for eternity is wanting not to be forgotten. And what stands better throughout that ravenous beast we call time other than memory?

Transcend into Traveling: Action is Fuel

Transcend into traveling and action is fuel for memories. Memory is the only witness time leaves alive. History traces back all the actions – the good and bad – that compose our ideologies that form the present and mold the future. But transcendence is not only applied to humans as a social being. We fulfill our life’s purpose by being the best possible “I” we can. It can only be achieved through self-examination and enjoying life to the fullest. Transcendence implies making something meaningful. It could be to us, personally, or to a group of us, but meaningful nonetheless. Art is the most beautiful way of perpetuation. But we can create these moments as well, unerasable from memory. And one of those ways is by traveling.

Living to Travel map bubble

Traveling is the perfect way of doing something meaningful. One can get a gaze of many ways of life. Let’s face it: there’s more ground to cover than we’ll ever be able to step on in our short lifespans. So, we have to cover as much of it as possible. Don’t be afraid – it only takes one small step at a time. Formalize your desire. Don’t be afraid to fail, because the ones failing are the ones trying to change. So what if life is short if we can make the most of it? When you’re in another country, it’s easy to be defeated by homesickness or by the combination of futons, awful food, and a big, cold room. But let us not despair. Comedy = Tragedy + Time.

Transcend into Traveling

Now, I laugh and remember tenderly those bad nights: sometimes on the floor, beside a river, down a pier, or in a soccer field in the middle of nowhere. I remember the times that I celebrated a special occasion all alone and the times where I wanted to hug my significant other. Too bad Skype hasn’t gotten that far! Reflecting on the times, I felt nostalgic. I missed my loved ones, but I became aware of how beautiful and noble that feeling was because it’s not rational.

You may and may not have hard times while traveling, but I think you can endure everything that you want and learn from it. I want to travel abroad and see Canada. Taking my girlfriend to Italy and wherever she wants would be amazing. I want to live in another place – at least for a while – and while I can. Traveling is an excellent opportunity to transcend and be happy. The only other two ways to find meaning that I see are helping nature (animals, plants, humans, ecosystem) and creating (artistically speaking). So, no, immortality is not boring. Transcend into traveling is just that it pales against the exquisite exhilaration of mortal life.

José G. Carrasco Talks Teaching in Miami-Dade Schools

José G. Carrasco was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and moved to New York at the age of five. He speaks three languages: Portuguese, English, and Spanish. José is currently teaching Mathematics in the inner-city Miami-Dade public schools system. He received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from the University of Miami. José worked in a lab for a few years, conducting research, and later moved to Tallahassee to be closer to his daughters.

Teach-USA-Jose-Carasco-student-gradWhile in Tallahassee, he completed his master’s in curriculum and instruction and earned an education specialist degree. José moved back to the Miami-Dade area to once again live closer to his daughters, and teach full time as he conducted research to complete his dissertation for his Ph.D.

For those of you who do not know him, the best way to describe José would be that he’s a smart, kind kid at heart. If you aren’t laughing when José is around then you must be in trouble – with him!

“I want to make a difference in that one kid’s life — that one kid who doesn’t see what we all see.” – José G. Carrasco 


Why did you choose to come to the USA?

“This is a tough one. My parents separated when I was five years old and my mother brought me to the States without my father’s permission. He was furious and made arrangements to bring me back home. It took him almost a year to get me back. My parents eventually got back together and decided to live in Bristol, Connecticut.”


What are your goals while you are teaching in Miami and studying at FSU?

“My goals are to conduct more research in teaching and eventually finish my Ph.D. I see myself teaching for another six to seven years in the public school system, and eventually teaching at the college level. The hands-on experience that I am able to attain in the classroom will allow me to have a better grasp of how educational research can be used in the field.”


Have you ever taught before? If not, what was your career field?

“Before I went into teaching, I worked in a lab as a research assistant. After going through a divorce, I decided to make a change and decided to transition my career into teaching. I went for a higher degree (M.Ed. and E.Ds.) at Florida State University in Curriculum and Instruction. Before accepting my current position two weeks before Christmas break, I was working in a charter school. That experience was okay, but the administration was not helpful and the school was very unstructured. The school that I’m working at now is better organized. They want me to be a classroom teacher next year, so I may have a new experience. So, instead of teaching two subjects, they would rather I teach a self-contained fifth-grade class.”


Why did you choose to teach and also, why did you choose FSU over other schools?

“I had friends and connections at FSU that work there and encouraged me to apply. I actually almost went back to the University of Miami, but I was offered a better financial aid and a research assistant job at FSU, so it made more sense for me to go there.”


What assumptions or expectations did you have before you came to the USA?

“When I moved to New York as a child, I was very surprised by many people’s lack of knowledge about the rest of the world. When I would tell people that I was from Brazil, they would ask questions such as What part of Puerto Rico is that in?and So you speak Spanish?’. I do speak Spanish, but Portuguese is the primary language in Brazil. Puerto Rico is actually part of the United States. I was very surprised by many people’s lack of knowledge.”

“My biggest culture shock was actually moving from New York to the South. The differences between the various parts of the U.S was very surprising to me. My perspective is that the education system is much better in New York than in Florida. This is at least true of the schools that I’ve been to. The differences in the education system within the United States are very surprising.”


What has been the most difficult since you began teaching?

“The most difficult thing is dealing with the negativity from other teachers. Some of the older teachers are really passing down a lot of negative attitudes to newer teachers. Another challenge is that a lot of new teachers from programs like Teach for America are really unprepared and quickly realize that teaching is harder than expected. Also, in Miami, the mentorship program is not nearly as strong as it is in Tallahassee. In Tallahassee, all new teachers get a mentor. It’s not like that in Miami. Some teachers seem to just be following a script. Also, the lesson planning and planning for differentiated instruction takes a long time.”



What has been the best experience?

“My favorite part of teaching is seeing students learn. I really enjoy connecting with the students and making my lessons engaging. Before I began teaching, I had experience in an afterschool program and mentorship through my master’s program. That was really helpful to make me feel more prepared. I teach because I love sharing knowledge. To see students and see their progress. I like to be the one that inspires my students to be passionate about acquiring knowledge. ‘Teaching by any means necessary’ is my motto.”


How has standardized testing affected your teaching experience?

“Data collection programs such as i-Ready take up a lot of instructional time. It’s sad that sometimes we just have to teach kids how to take tests. Instead of teaching basic math skills, I have to teach [my students] how to answer standardized test questions.”



As a teacher in the Miami-Dade schools, how has the current political climate affected your immigrant students?

“Whether they came to the U.S. legally or illegally, they are happy to be here and are taking advantage of the opportunities that they have. There is anxiety and hope for the DREAM Act to pass, but I think that my students really do feel like their school is a safe haven. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho originally came from Portugal and overstayed his visa. He was undocumented and stands up for immigrant students.”

Wrap Up


After speaking with José, it’s clear that he is passionate about seeing his students succeed. He teaches because he truly enjoys his craft. There are teachers who teach to get a paycheck, and then there are teachers who do their job because they love what they do. José is clearly the latter of the two. He spends his free time with students in the Miami-Dade schools who struggle with the material just to ensure that they know there is a solution, and a way to overcome whatever it is that is stopping them from achieving their highest potential.

José and I will continue our interview after he completes his first year as a Mathematics teacher. We will hear about how his first year went and if he plans to stay in the public school system in the Miami-Dade area. Stay tuned for more with José in a couple of months.

by Leesa Truesdell

Expat vs Depression

The emotional roller coaster of moving abroad is multifaceted; it is filled with those breathtaking ups, but is also plagued by those heart-wrenching downs. Without our typical support systems, known environments, and comfort zones, those downs can quickly spiral into some depressing times. And unfortunately, it happens more than we would like to discuss in my post of expat vs depression.

Reality vs Instagram

instagram reality photos pictures expat vs depressionSocial media has a funny way of influencing our lives. We can use Instagram as an example. Instagram is a photographic platform to express our perceptions of the world through our own lens. Personally, I post only my best pictures on Instagram, capturing the moment in the most creative and enticing way I can. By default, all my followers only see my world through my altered lens. Pictures of Spain, Morocco, Italy, England, Switzerland, etc. fill my Instagram from top to bottom. But how often do people stop to reflect on the accuracy of my portrayal of the world? Probably not much.

If I honestly posted my traveling life through Instagram, it would look more like: boxes of rice (I could not afford anything else to eat), a cold floor (where I slept in the airport because I could not afford accommodation), panic (my bank account rarely has enough to support me in case of an emergency while traveling), and the hostel (with all 20 beds shoved into a room that should only accommodate 8).

My point? Well, to get you to understand the reality of depression while being abroad, we all need to step out of this false narrative that everything is as beautiful as we make it out to be online and start understanding that there are complex, “behind the scenes” layers that many choose not to share.

Home vs There

Home is comfortable. Home is happy. Home is love. Home is family. Home is friends. When I moved here, I had no home. If I had a bad day, I did not have anyone to listen to me. Additionally, if I needed help, I had no one to call. If I wanted to make plans, I had to do them alone. Leaving your support system back at home means giving up everything and being alone with yourself. Some people thrive, while others do not.

hostel dormitory traveling abroad expat vs depression

Leaving so much behind can mentally cause a strain on your life. I missed Christmas with my relatives and celebrated it alone. My birthday was spent alone with cake that I made myself, and a movie on my laptop.  Day to day life felt uneventful because I had no one to share my memories with. Additionally, the added stressors of finding friends, learning a language, assimilating into a culture, starting a new job, finding somewhere to live, opening a bank account, adjusting to a new city, etc, etc, etc, is a lot to take on at once.

On the other side of things, some days I just watched my old life back at home as a third person and how it moved on in my absence. I missed the celebrations of holidays, birth of new family, engagements of siblings, and simple family dinners that once were taken-for-granted. I could not even understand why I decided to give up my past life. Why did I leave my loved ones? Why did I choose to move away and be alone? Where do I belong now? And what on Earth am I even doing here?

Me vs Me

traveling-abroad-expat-pressional-depressionOnce you start questioning all your decisions and plans, things can quickly go downward. It hits you quite hard when you realize you have no one to help you through the changes you are experiencing. At one point, it caused me to become my worst enemy. I started to second-guess so much about my life. From career to relationship to family to my own happiness, I could not get a grip on my own future.

My career?

I move back and continue with lots of money and benefits or I stay here and am much happier, but make a significantly lower income and not much advancement.

My relationship? – He is here and definitely not there.

My family? – They are there and definitely not here.

My happiness? – I love the lifestyle and culture here, but that doesn’t include my family, which are there.

Everything turned into a personal struggle and my mental battle turned into a physical battle. I couldn’t sleep, eat, or enjoy anything about my life anymore. I felt that I was constantly being pulled between two places, or essentially two lives.  What made things worse was the feeling that no one understood my dilemma. My family just wanted me to come home. My friends wanted me to continue my adventurous life. Anywhere I looked, I couldn’t find the answer to any of my questions or anything to alleviate the torn emotions I was experiencing.

traveling abroad expat airport

So, what did I do? Well, I wish I could wrap this story up with a happy ending and a solution like I normally do. Unfortunately, this time is a little different. I still grapple with these emotions. I often find myself waking up from a nightmare about my future, my family, my relationship, and my life. What has helped is focusing on the things I want and the things that make me happy. I try to remind myself that I’m not alone and my family and friends are always with me, whether it’s here or there. I try to remind myself that I’m living a dream in another country and it may or may not last forever. If I don’t seize my day in Madrid now, when will I ever get the opportunity to do so again?


To my expats,

Don’t forget: we are a big network. There are people just like you who have leapt into a new world and are trying to keep their head above water. Talk to others in the same boat as you. Share your experiences to help uplift yourself and possibly someone else who feels the same. Reach out via meetings, social gatherings, or even Facebook where “Expats in ____________” groups are always there to help bring people together. And most importantly, remember the positives. Living in another country is a giant learning experience. You see the world, connect with others, learn about yourself, and gain such valuable lessons that you could never achieve from staying in your comfort zone. Remember that what you are doing abroad is shaping you into a remarkable, well-rounded, and cultured person. These are true qualities that change your life forever. Don’t ever forget that.

Us AND You 

Sometimes you win and other times you learn
Sometimes you win and other times you learn.

Do you have a loved one abroad?

Check in with them often and take note in any change of behavior.

Support their endeavors because sometimes they can’t even support it themselves.

Encourage them to stay strong and remind them that they are doing a superb job so far.

Recognize that they are facing new challenges every day and any negativity can sincerely affect their mental statuses.

Praise them for following their dreams. Just because we are far away doesn’t mean we want to lose the feeling of your presence in our lives.

by Bebe Bakhtiar