A few days ago, I asked Kristin to answer a few questions. Thank you, Kristen. We know each other since we both visited Chicago awhile ago. I still live in Germany but Kristin travelled a lot and worked in so many countries. It’s an interesting way she goes. So here is my interview and few photos from and with Kristin.
Q: Do you remember when we met ? Can you believe how much time is gone.
A: It feels like a life time ago since we met in Chicago, my life is so completely different from that time.
BQ: I still don’t understand the American educations system, so forgive me here. What is your profession?
A: I am actually not a teacher in America nor am I trained in teaching; this is my first time teaching at all. Back home you would need a Bachelor’s degree and then you would need a teaching credential. My work experience up until South Korea consisted of office admin roles.
Q: Leaving your comfort zone is never easy. What was your reason? Wanderlust, adventure?
A: I originally left the US to do my postgrad studies in Birmingham, England. I was only supposed to be gone for a year. However, as I was living on a student budget and didn’t get to travel in Europe at all, I was reluctant to return home.
Dublin & Harry Potter Experience
Q: In which countries did you live since then?
A: With my reluctance to return home, I researched my options and discovered I could get a one year working holiday visa for Ireland. From there I received an employer sponsored visa and was able to remain in Ireland for a total of 20-months. At the 20-month mark I was made redundant and had to leave Ireland. An Aussie co-worker planted the idea of going to Australia, where I was eligible for a working holiday visa, so I did that. I stayed with her mum until I found a job and a place to live. With the election of Trump, I was even more reluctant to return home so I applied for a working holiday visa in New Zealand and went there for a year. Working holiday visas are non-renewable beyond their initial term and are geared towards 18-30 year olds. Not only was I out of working holiday countries that US citizens are eligible for, I had also aged out. So I started researching more long term solutions to staying abroad. I decided to come to Asia and teach English as you only need a TEFL certificate which is both easy to acquire and fairly affordable. I specifically picked South Korea because of the EPIK programme, it seemed the safest and most stable route to take.
Neuseeland & Maori Village
Q: From you social media photos I have the impression you work or study and in your free time you travel.
A: Yes, that is correct. Most people on a working holiday visa arrive in a country with savings and so they travel and pick up jobs along the way to replenish their savings. But because I came from the US, I have student loans and so have never been able to afford to not be working. So I stay based in one place and pick-up longer term contract work and travel using my vacation time or on long holiday weekends. This is feasible because the countries I have lived in have all had four-weeks paid vacation for workers.
Q: Travel you alone? Did you make friends easy?
A: I have never been Miss Popular and because I am always saving my money to take my next trip, I tend to be a bit of a homebody, so I have struggled with making friends. Plus when people know you’re in a country with an expiration date, they tend to not want to invest in a relationship (at least that has been my experience). So beyond my wonderful classmates or co-workers, I don’t really make friends. If I do make a friend outside of school/work, it is usually a fellow traveler.
Q: Talk about normal life. Can you imagine going back to it?
A: I pursued a master’s degree in American Studies. And, while I found the subject extremely interesting, it didn’t really prepare me for a specific job (unlike a degree in something like nursing or accounting). So my job experience up until South Korea consisted of administrative assistant or customer service type roles. Back home, those types of roles are very poorly paid. Whereas abroad, while they were still on the lower-end of the pay scale, they were in countries that actually paid a living wage so I have been able to afford to live and travel. The job benefits included paid bank holidays and four-weeks of holiday leave. I have a better quality of life abroad than I ever did back in the US. My last job was in Woodland Hills, California and was a contract role, which had no paid holiday, sick days, or health insurance and only paid $30,000/year before taxes. Even if they had offered paid holiday it would have only been 10 days a year. Additionally it has been extremely rewarding, personally, to travel and experience different cultures. My view of the world has expanded and it has changed me on a personal level so much. So having experienced the difference in not only working but living in America versus working and living abroad, it makes it really hard to fathom having to return to the US. But up until now all of my visas have had a time limit on them and were non-renewable, so having to return has always been a strong possibility. South Korea is the first country that I’ve lived in where I have the ability to renew my visa (for as long as my employer and I want, essentially). But being so far from home also takes a toll. You miss out on so much family time and travelling back is so expensive. Ultimately, it will be the pull of family that has me return to the US. At this point, I don’t see myself staying longer than 2-3 years in South Korea. However, Europe is much closer to America, so if I had the opportunity to return to somewhere like Ireland or the UK and settle there permanently, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Thank you so much for your time and the interesting interview. It gave me a very interesting insight in your life.
BTW – I always love your christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong but its so American, you put so much effort in them. We would just buy a postcard and thats it. So thank you for that too.