The life of an expat across five countries

Karla Fraser shares her expansive expatise experience having lived abroad in the UAE, Afghanistan, Dominica, Singapore and Bangladesh.

“I have always wanted to live and work abroad since obtaining my graduate degree in International Affairs… I did not know anyone in any of the five countries I have lived.”

Let’s start at the beginning: Where are you originally from? When did you move abroad and where did you move abroad to?

I call the US home. My first move was in 2007 to the UAE. I repatriated to the US in Dec 2009. My second move, which is now going on 8 years, was in 2012 to Afghanistan. Since then I have lived in the Commonwealth of Dominica, Singapore and now Bangladesh.

How were you able to migrate? (Job, Visa, Spouse, Family or another channel?)

I migrated via my career in higher education. I am a student affairs/life administrator.

Why did you decide to move and did you know anyone there?

I have always wanted to live and work abroad since obtaining my graduate degree in International Affairs. No, I did not know anyone in any of the 5 countries I have lived.

How did you find the job searching process? Was there anything about working overseas that surprised you?

I used the online higher education platforms and my network in the field for my searches.  I went in with an open mind, so many things were different, but I can’t pinpoint anything that was shocking. I expected to have cultural adjustment based on lifestyle, food, organizational difference, etc.

How was the experience finding a new home?

My experience in finding housing in each country was smooth. In 4 out of the 5 cases, the university guided me through the process. In my one independent case (Singapore), a colleague referred me to a real estate agent, and they were excellent in helping me find exactly what I wanted within my budget. 

How is the social scene? What was your experience making friends?

It varies from country to country. I am a foodie, so enjoying local meals (around my food allergies) is a delight. I make friends via work, my faith-based spaces, and through online forums and social groups for expats in my location. I like having a mix of friends, both expats from around the globe as well as locals.

Did you date overseas? If so, what was that experience like? Any memorable stories you can share?

I dated. I almost got an in-store customer service manager fired in the UAE. I felt horrible as it was not his fault, and he was trying to fix the issue but took the heat from the store general manager. In the end, the problem was resolved in my favor. I promised him a coffee. We went for coffee and then dated for a few months. We still periodically connect for a check-in online and holiday wishes. 

Do you feel your race impacted your experience? If so, how?

I find that my gender has more impact on my experience while abroad then my race. I have lived and worked in many patriarchal societies.  I have experienced or witnessed racism, colorism, and classism during my years abroad.

What has been the most challenging thing about moving abroad?

Missing family events like weddings and funerals. I have missed a couple significant family funerals.

What has been the most rewarding?

Traveling & Vacation time. Since living abroad, my world travel has expanded. I generally take 2-3 trips per year. Granted, living in SE Asia, I have developed a fondness for Bali, and it is my go-to spot when I just want to chill.

Tips & Advice for the Her Expatise Community

What in your experience would you say is the minimum monthly cost of living?

$1200 USD

Any advice on the visa/migrating process that could help someone else’s process go smoother?

Ensure your passport has several empty pages and is at least one year away from renewal. Have patience with the governmental processes.

Any insider tips on a place you enjoy going to or an activity you enjoy doing?

Have local friends and share their holiday traditions. It is a great cross-cultural experience for both parties!

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