I've been in a long distance relationship with the love of my life for almost three years now, and my deepest wish is to see him for more than six months out of the year. I've had an even longer love affair with the country of his birth--Jamaica--having visited since I was 19 and having extended family ties there. I literally long for the day when the beaches of Westmoreland or Ocho Rios are my backyard and when I can jerk my own chicken and pick mangoes, avocados, and coconuts outside my front door.
Now, with global quarantine orders and borders closures in place due to COVID-19, many of us have had to put any plans of traveling on hold almost indefinitely. But no worries wanderlusters.
Below, 4 women share why and how they relocated abroad, how the current events have affected their everyday lives, and--when things are back to normal--how other women can realize their dreams of moving abroad, too:
China: Karina Henry, Teacher And Model
Image via Karina Henry
How have things been for you abroad, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic changing our way of life?
In January, I returned home to visit since I had a month-long vacation for Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, due to the airline restrictions and border closings related to Coronavirus, I've been stuck in the States. I'm hoping China reopens their borders soon and allows foreigners to reenter so I can get back to my life in China!
How did you transition into working in China?
In 2018, I convinced my job in the States to approve remote work from Thailand for a month by submitting a 7-page-proposal. (To this day, I am still shocked that they approved me working from another country because they rarely approved people working from home!)
While in Thailand, I met a young lady who was living and teaching there. She told me how easy it was to find a teaching job in Asia and that I should apply. Of course, I shrugged it off and returned home to my regular job. Weeks after returning home from Thailand and settling back into my normal life, I realized how miserable I was and how much I missed my life in Thailand. I was beyond depressed. I cried everyday!
That summer, I decided to begin looking into teaching abroad and stumbled upon an awesome opportunity in Suzhou, China. I nailed the interview (which wasn't very difficult) and began preparing my documents for my visa.
In September 2018, I boarded the plane with my one-way ticket to China to begin my life abroad. I've been enjoying my life abroad ever since! I am a foreign language teacher at a privately-owned kindergarten in Shanghai and this is my second year teaching in China. Though most people find international teaching opportunities via websites like TEFL.com or Teachaway.com, I truly stumbled upon both of my teaching opportunities.
Image via Karina Henry
What resources have helped in being an expat?
When I began to consider teaching abroad, I turned to social media as a valuable resource. I joined a Facebook group called Brothas&Sistas of China, and it's a wonderful group for people of color who live or have lived in China. I began asking questions about teaching opportunities and life abroad. Because China isn't known for being very friendly to black foreigners (you wouldn't imagine how many times I've seen "only interested in European teachers" when I was job searching), I was most interested in working for a school that had already hired people of color.
I received helpful leads and reached out to schools because of referrals I received from people in the Facebook group. One of the things I love most about living in China is that opportunities are easier to find and they often fall in your lap.
In addition to teaching, I also model for a wholesale company that is based in Shanghai. How did I land that gig? I was out with a Chinese friend, stuffing my face at a restaurant, when I was approached by two representatives who asked if I'd model for them! This has also opened other doors for me in China and back home.
I recently started a YouTube channel called Karina Worldwide to document my life as a teacher, plus-size model, traveler, and black woman living life abroad!
Ghana: Maame Adjei, Actress, Producer & Creative Entrepreneur
Maame, who attended undergrad and graduate school in Philadelphia, has Ghanaian roots and decided to moved to Accra, Ghana to pursue a healthcare career in 2013. Her interests shifted when a friend suggested she try acting, and the following year she landed a starring role in the critically acclaimed show An African City. She also hosted a travel show showcasing the beauty and diversity of Ghana called Girl Going Places, and has since collaborated with other actors and creatives on the continent. Here's her story of moving abroad:
What led you to take the leap?
I've been moving "abroad" all my life. I've lived in the UK, in the US, and in Ghana. I was born in Ghana and I consider it home, [but] I left at a young age. When I finally decided to move back 7 years ago, it was like moving 'abroad' or to a new place. I had been living in Philadelphia for over a decade, so moving back to Ghana was a leap, however, it was something I had to do.
I came to Ghana on a quick 2-week vacation, and by the time I was heading back to Philadelphia, the mundaneness of my life hit me so hard.
I realized how unhappy I actually was with my life and my work and just felt an overwhelming need to shift the path and try something completely new. My family had all moved back to Ghana, and it just felt like if I was going to re-start my life with a goal to pursue happiness and passion, it was the best place to start. So I did.
What was the process to do what you love for work?
I'm a creative, and that's saying a lot in Ghana! My background is in healthcare finance and that's the field I was in before I moved to Ghana, but since I made a conscious decision to find my passions and pursue them, I took the first year of being here "off" and just traveled and lived an Eat, Pray, Love life. I had cashed out my 401k, so I had the money to just "figure it out."
In the midst of that, I started working on my own travel show. Then a friend reached out to me about a TV show she was working on, An African City, and really, my creative life began from there. So, my work found me and not vice versa.
What were the first steps you took to officially move?
Thankfully, I was moving to a country that I knew well. I had lived in Ghana as a tween, I had visited during Christmas holidays, and I had a family here, so the transition was certainly easier.
I do suggest that if you're planning on moving away from your home base, research, research, research. [Look into] work visas and how long you can stay.
Germany: Zoie-Marie, Tech Professional & Vlogger
Image via Zoie-Marie
Why did you choose to live abroad?
I am originally from New York and now living in the Stuttgart region in Germany. There are a few reasons why I decided to move abroad. During my college years I did two study abroad semesters, one to Austria and one to Germany. Those two semesters abroad really opened my eyes to travel.
Before that time I never went anywhere--never went on family vacations (outside of the country), never went on solo vacations. I was just a homebody. After those two semesters, I had a nasty bite from the travel bug.
It was so easy and affordable to travel from one place to another within Europe! To top it off, I had met so many amazing individuals, and I had the most romantic and exciting experiences which I will never forget. After that, I decided I wanted my life to always be an adventure. I wanted to make travel an essential piece of my existence which led me to the grand idea that I should move abroad officially and at least give the idea a try.
Image via Zoie-Marie
How have the quarantines and all that is related to COVID-19 affected your life?
The Coronavirus has hit me hard! My personal life is more affected than my work life. In my job, I am normally able to work from home once or twice a week, so I am not new to that. I am very fortunate that my job and my role was not affected by this virus. Outside of my job, my personal life has been halted. My main purpose of moving abroad was to travel, have experiences, and meet new people. The virus has eliminated all opportunity to continue to do that at the moment.
COVID-19 has canceled an important training trip I had to California and also a special mother-daughter vacation which I planned for Greece. I haven't seen my mother in-person since January. Further, since I moved to Germany on my own, I have no family here or nearby and due to social distancing, I cannot meet my friends or co-workers. I am home and alone 24/7. I am missing human interaction. It's extra lonely, and quite frankly all my travel plans for the year have come to a shattering and lengthy halt.
What do you do for work abroad, and how did you find job opportunities?
I am working in the artificial intelligence industry, and I was able to attain my job through LinkedIn. Before that, my two jobs in Germany did not challenge me for long and as a result, I was very unhappy with my situation. I went on LinkedIn every other week applying for jobs for over a year, and many were, in the end, not a right fit until I landed my current position.
My suggestion for anyone who wants to move abroad is to be vigilant, and if the social sites like LinkedIn are not helpful, you can try to network via Facebook groups or friends and friends of friends!
In Germany, there are numerous expat groups online where many people list or forward job openings from their companies. I even applied to one or two jobs via that channel.
Image via Zoie-Marie
What are the first steps you took to move?
First, I needed to find a job. I did extensive research on what I could do in the field of English in Germany (which is an easy field to find entry work anywhere abroad). Once I secured a job abroad, I needed to save enough money to support myself for the first few months abroad. I worked two jobs in the States, 7 days a week, and saved every penny (literally).
Before I officially moved abroad, I did research on what was needed for my work visa. Since Germany is included in the Schengen Agreement, Americans with a U.S. passport are allowed to enter Germany for a maximum period of 90 days. This allowed me to enter the country without a work permit.
As soon as I landed in Germany, my immediate task was to apply for my work visa as it was now time sensitive and the clock was ticking. I could not start my job without it [so] during that time I just relied on my savings.
My advice is to be very vigilant in getting this process started as soon as possible because the processing time could be anything from 1 to 2 months. On top of that, you will need to consider the additional tasks that must be completed before you can even apply for the permit. This includes signing up for health insurance, opening up a bank account, and finding accommodation which could take up a chunk of that 3 months.
France: Latrice Shepherd, Educator & Travel Consultant
Image via Latrice Shepherd
Latrice is from California, and after working in New York, decided to act on her dream to live in Paris. She launched her own travel site, Penniless in Paris, where she shares insights on places to go, live, and shop and where expats can find support and community. She also helps others reach their expat goals and feed their travel bugs. Here's her story:
How has life changed for you as we all face the issues of a global pandemic?
I am currently abroad in Paris and the Coronavirus has affected my life tremendously. More than ever before I wish I was home with my family. I know that I live far, but these past few weeks on lock down, I actually feel far. Additionally, as an expat, your friends become your family. Being separated from friends during the quarantine is also very difficult.
I consider myself to be an avid traveler and I'm usually exploring a new place every 90 days. Due to the lock down, I'm also unable to pursue my passion of travel. Nonetheless all is not lost.
My French neighbor and I have forged a bond during the quarantine. She's around 55, and like me she's single and lives alone. She's across the hallway, and she and I shoot the shit over a bottle of wine every other day. We remind each other that this too shall pass and talk about all the things we intend to do when the quarantine is over. We get 6 weeks of vacation in France---one of the many reasons I'm still here! When this is all over I intend to frolic in the South of France as I do every summer. There's a fabulous jazz festival in Nice in July---the largest of all of Europe. I'm also looking forward to spending the month of December at home with my family.
What sparked the final decision to move to France?
I'm originally from the [San Francisco] Bay area (yeeeeee!) but before I moved to Paris, I was living in New York. Fun Fact: The day I moved to New York, I told myself that once I was finished with New York I would move to Paris. I believe that my move was literally a stepping stone to prepare me for my relocation to Paris.
While in New York, I had been laid off from my retail management job. It was the middle of a recession and finding a job with a comparable salary was impossible. As a result I returned to university to finish my bachelor's degree since I already had an associate's.
I studied international relations, and as part of my degree program I was required to learn a second language. I chose French and studied abroad in Paris for two months during the summer to help me master the language.
After returning from Paris, I decided to pursue a second degree in French and embarked on a one-year study abroad program in Paris. I moved to Paris January 2014 for my program, and I literally never returned!
Image via Latrice Shepherd
What were the first steps you took to officially move and enjoy life in a new country?
Because I moved to Paris with my university I had to obtain a student visa for a year. I argue that a student visa is the most hassle-free visa to obtain for anyone looking to move to Paris and have the ability to work part-time.
I also significantly downsized my life before my move. I rid myself of unnecessary material things because I knew I would be gone for at least a year and I didn't know what my future held. I wanted to be able to transition to any situation smoothly and that's difficult to do when you have a lot of things in tow. Parisian apartments are very small and there's no way they can accommodate the things that we Americans tend to acquire in the States.
I arranged for all of my financial responsibilities to be managed online. I set up a checking account with Capital One 360 which is basically an online banking account with no foreign transaction fees.
I also prepared myself to integrate to another culture. Paris is not the U.S., and French culture is not American culture. It's pointless to compare the two. If I want to maintain a positive experience and a happy life, it is necessary to adapt.
What do you do for work in Paris?
I'm a tenured English lecturer at a private university. I acquired my current position through a liaison that my university uses for study abroad students in Paris. Before becoming tenured, I was working under the table (or 'au noir'), and making roughly 300 euros a month (about $330 today).
My first two years in Paris were very bare bones. I was literally surviving on scholarships and grants received from my university. Additionally, I taught English on the side. I also started a small business helping people plan trips to Paris or move abroad. That small business has since turned into a full-fledged website aptly named "Penniless in Paris." If anyone is interested in moving or even traveling to Paris, please check out the website. Au Revoir!
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Featured image courtesy of Latrice Shepherd
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Ciara is opening up about what ultimately led to her realizing the relationship with her ex Future no longer served her and that it was time for a change.
In an episode aptly titled "Ciara: Don't Let Him Waste Your Time," the "How We Roll" artist recently pulled up to Alex Cooper's Call Her Daddy podcast for an extensive interview where she spoke about discerning red flags, choosing yourself, how she knew her husband was her one, and when to say when it toxic relationships.
Ciara was an open book as she broached the topic of the rapper Future, recounting to the host when she knew it was time to leave her relationship. "It's almost like your tastebuds change. You gotta also sometimes look in the mirror and reflect on yourself, like what are things that I could be doing differently in my life? I'm looking for a change but what does that mean?"
The 37-year-old multi-hyphenate had a relationship with Future, who is also the father of their son together, Future Zahir, and they started dating in 2012. The pair seemed to be a match in ATL rap and R&B heaven but despite becoming engaged in 2013, the relationship came to an end a few months after Ciara gave birth to their child in 2014.
Back then, sources believed the split was due to Future's alleged infidelity. Now, Ciara is suggesting that calling off her engagement nine years ago was more about coming to terms with hard truths about herself.
The mother of three admitted that becoming a mom when she did woke her up. "When you have a child, it's very important to me, it's no time to play around," Ciara shared. "I am now responsible for another life, so what am I doing, how am I thinking that through?"
Her biggest life pursuit is joy. "I want joy. I want to make sure my cup is full." Realizing that her relationship at the time didn't bring her was a wake-up call she couldn't ignore. She recalled of that time in her life, "When you're tired, you're tired and don't nobody want to be tired all the time."
If you're drained more than energized by the things closest to you, like your relationships, Ciara is a reminder that it's time to reevaluate. "Those are things that come to my mind when I process, when I was making a pivotal moment in my life," Ciara continued.
The "Level Up" vocalist would eventually find the joy she sought in another love, through the answered prayer that is her husband, Russell Wilson. After a whirlwind romance, Ciara and Russell tied the knot in July 2016 and have been devoted and in love ever since.
In addition to her son Future Zahir, 9, the couple have since expanded their family to welcome two more kids, a daughter named Sienna, 6, and a son named Win, 3. This year, the couple took to Instagram to announce the big news that they were expecting their third child together.
"You look at me like that again, we make another kid... You my heart I'm your rib," Ciara cheekily captioned the pregnancy announcement post on Instagram.
In the same podcast episode, Ciara told Alex how she knew her now-husband Russell was her one. After time spent soul-searching, she said knew Russell was the one from the very start. "My mind is as vivid as it can be," she said of her power of manifestation.
"When I saw my husband, I've never seen anything like that." Everything that she had asked God for and prayed for on her healing journey was standing right in front of her in the NFL star. "It was crazy," she said.
Cheers to Ciara for learning her worth and refusing to sacrifice her joy!
Ciara: Don't Let Him Waste Your Time | Call Her Daddy video podcast Alex Cooper
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Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Strength Of A Woman Festival & Summit