Where do I belong?
December 8, 2016 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I've lived abroad for three years, now I'm wondering where to settle down.

I'm originally from southern California. I came to Ghana for a change of pace for me and my kid (ten years old), and we've certainly found that. But now I feel like it's time for us to move on. I've considered going back to Cali, but I have mixed feelings about that in light of the presidential election results. I'm a black American who considers herself a progressive liberal. Cali is home, but having the Donald as my president is an overwhelming thought even at a distance. However, I don't doubt that I could grow my career as a marketing manager there.

My other idea is to complete my degree in a French-speaking country, refining my language skills, then getting a position with a multinational marketing agency after I graduate. I'd also love to get a job in the UK if the pay package is good enough. I was hoping to hear from people who have made a similar decision, or know someone who has.
posted by Cybria to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If it helps swing things in your favor, California itself went for Clinton in an overwhelming majority, and state officials have pledged to preserve the rights, freedoms, government programs/infrastructure, and spirit of progressive commitment to social justice that the Obama administration has embodied, no matter what Trump does. Since California's economy is so large, and state programs are so self-sufficient (California's state health insurance exchange, Covered California, isn't even federally funded), it seems like California will be able to stand alone in this regard as compared to other US states.

So if you're up for returning the US, California is a great place to be doing that.
posted by Sara C. at 10:47 AM on December 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Hi. I lived in Togo for two years and got back to the USA about a year ago. I can't speak to your specific situation but I truly feel that if I hadn't left Togo when I did, I would have never been able to leave (I also lived in France for a total of two of the three years prior to living in Togo.) It's taken me the full year to readjust. I'm white so I can't speak to how being a person of color would change the choice.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:49 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no idea about getting jobs in the UK, but my $0.02 (USD) is: when you consider the prospect of going with your other idea, are you more than halfway excited about it? If so, totally go with that! Allons-y!

- polishing up foreign language skills or reaching language achievement markers will be a huge plus and greatly benefit nearly any career you put a stake in. time abroad living in the language is SUPER precious and you'll really miss it once back in the States.
- if paying for it won't ruin your life, completing the degree would at least be good as a resume line item, and probably really rewarding in terms of life experience, accomplishment, networking, etc.
- you can always come back to Cali afterward. there will still be marketing to do :-) droughts will be worse, probably, but .... still.
- could be great for your son, in terms of further language-learning while his brain's still nice and malleable. plus, more exposure to different cultures and societies -- things we *really need* more Americans to understand!

if in any way you feel weird/guilty about being away from America in These Trying Trumpy Times -- do cut yourself slack. pursuing dreams, expanding horizons, being open-minded, and helping to raise the Next Generation with a global worldview is a really wonderful way to represent USA abroad. (plus, you can still be involved with a political sphere of influence even from a distance.)

as much as I want / we need cool amazing helpful liberal people to stay in the US: the way this shitshow's goin', I wouldn't dissuade you from moving abroad even if you were just hitting the panic button and getting the hell out with no actual plan. but you already have great excuses to go! and when you feel less mixed-emotions about coming back, you can cross that bridge when you get to it.

background: Asian-American, moved five times as a kid/teen (including to foreign countries), taught ESL in Japan for about five years after university, *loved* life there but felt super dead-ended in career prospects, moved back to the US for various co-depedent and ultimately wrong reasons... four years later I'm still in the States and fumbling around job-wise, although work 'n stuff is better than it was my first two years back. am also socialist pinko scum liberal. so all this is coloring my view.
posted by cluebucket at 9:25 PM on December 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been in your position several times, and would say that when you're unsure about major decisions in which there are a multitude of unknowns, it's easy to allow your judgement to be influenced by the few or obvious knowns you have, and so I think the next step should be to get more knowns on the table.

It's easy when you're considering living in different countries to entertain romantic notions of how things are going to play out - particularly when you think things back home aren't quite ideal - but the reality is that the map of where you could go is primarily defined by your elegibility for visas (plus their cost & waiting time), and - assuming you do not have unlimited funds - cost of living (and in your case, cost of study too).

I'm British, currently living in the US, and would say that the CoL in the UK - particularly somewhere like London - would be shocking to someone from the US. That's not to say it's not doable - just that it's a significant consideration. Also in the UK, if you're not a citizen who has lived there for the past 3 years, that makes you an international student. I looked into this recently and, because I haven't lived there for the past 3 years, an undergrad course would cost me $70K (that's fees alone) as an international student. And could a get a student loan, as an expat, to help with the $70K? I don't know. Would a US bank give me loan to be an international student (and when I'm not a US citizen)? I don't know. Would a UK bank give me a loan when I haven't lived or worked there for years? I don't know.

I think you get the picture. If I was in your shoes, I'd draw up a shortlist of places which interest me, research visas, CoL and study fees, and take it from there. If the political situation in the US significantly grinds your gears, it stands to reason that the prevailing politics in your shortlisted locations also requires research (and in turn, how host nation politics affect aliens).

Oh, and to answer the title of your question: if you don't know where you belong, then you have to explore. You may not find where you belong by exploring - or you may find it was where you started out - but you'll definitely not find it by going to where you don't think you do.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 10:41 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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