From China to NZ: Expat Experiences amidst COVID

“I would say the most rewarding thing has been seeing myself grow so much as a person. Sounds super cliche but moving abroad can change your whole perspective on life.”

Jenna, Age 22

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

I am originally from London in the UK. I first moved abroad to Melbourne, Australia in 2018 for several months between my second and final year of university. Upon graduating, I moved to Shenzhen, China in August 2019 with the plan to live there for a year, but due to COVID I only ended up living there for 5 months. I’m now living in New Zealand and have been here since February 2020.

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

My first live abroad experience in Australia was through an internship program. I moved to China through an agency teaching English as a foreign language and moved to New Zealand due to my partner who I met in China being a New Zealander.

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

I moved to Australia and China to travel and gain independence. I had always lived at home with my family in the UK as a student which I enjoyed, but I felt it was time to spread my wings. I initially came to New Zealand for a holiday, thinking I would be returning to China after the virus uncertainty there, however I loved it here so much and ended up staying.

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

Going through an internship then a teaching program, finding a job was relatively easy because an agency helps you navigate getting a visa, paperwork and actually placing you with a company or school. Finding a job myself in New Zealand, was much like looking for a job back in the UK. However, on a Working Holiday Visa currently, my options are a bit more limited. I have thoroughly enjoyed working overseas, learning about different cultures and meeting cool new people.

How was the experience finding a new home?

Through an agency, a lot of the process in China was done for me. I was presented with a few apartment options that were located within my school district and all I had to do was select which one I wanted. In New Zealand, we used TradeMe which I found to be a really positive experience. We viewed the apartment on Saturday and moved in on the following Wednesday.

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

It varies from place to place. In Shenzhen, there is a thriving expat community. Making friends was easy during my internship program and teaching abroad as I lived in the same accommodation as the other interns, and before finding my apartment in China, I also lived in the same hotel as the other new teachers. Living in New Zealand, so not through some sort of program, it was more gradual, meeting people here and there, but Kiwis are really friendly and I have also made friends with other expats here.

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

I met my boyfriend in China through our teaching agency as we both moved to China to teach English as a foreign language. We were just friends to begin and it just organically developed into more. It was super fun getting to explore Shenzhen and go on dates there, such a crazy adventure.

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

I am half English and half Moroccan. I wouldn’t say my race has really impacted my experience living abroad.

What has been the most challenging thing about moving abroad?

It’s an obvious one, but just missing friends and family back in the UK. The time difference at the moment is 11 hours but I’ve got in the swing of it now, making calls in the morning and later in the evening.

What has been the most rewarding?

I would say the most rewarding thing has been seeing myself grow so much as a person. Sounds super cliche but moving abroad can change your whole perspective on life.

Tips and advice for the Her Expatise Community

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

$1700 (NZD)

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

If you are teaching abroad or completing an internship, definitely consider going through an agency as it makes things so much easier. If you are doing it alone, make checklists and tick things off as you go, it’s super satisfying and helps you stay organised.

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

If you ever visit New Zealand, try out a luge! Super fun, I went to the one in Rotorua and will definitely be going back.

Finally, If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before you got on that plane to move abroad, what would it be? 

Don’t stress about every little detail so much. It’s great to plan but not everything will go to plan and that’s ok.

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