Deciding to move abroad is such a big decision. You have a lot to think about. Where are you going to go? How will you support yourself? Will you have friends? Living abroad is an amazing experience, but you have to do your research before hand. Luckily, you’re in the right place. As part of our Expat Confession segment, we have an interview with someone who took the plunge to move abroad.
Meet Shioray L. She’s a Japanese American gal living in the largest city on the west coast of the United States: Los Angeles. During her time at university, she decided to study abroad for a semester. This allowed her to travel half way across the globe to the beautiful country of Denmark. She spent time in Copenhagen and learned what it’s like to live in a foreign country. Here’s her story on living in the second happiest country in the world.
Q. Tell me where you are right now? What do you see this exact moment?
A. I’m at my desk at work right now, at Sony Interactive Entertainment in Los Angeles. I see my computer screens and laptop.
Q. What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
A. Barcelona, Spain.
Q. What’s one place you hope to travel to in the future?
Q. What made you start thinking about moving abroad?
A. For one of my majors in college (International Business), we either had to study abroad or take a class, so of course I chose to study abroad. I had also hoped to study abroad ever since I graduated high school.
Q. Where did you decide to live abroad? What did you do to support yourself?
A. I lived in Copenhagen, Denmark. We were not legally allowed to have a job, so I spent the money I had saved from working back in Honolulu, as well as my parents’ money. I also received a scholarship from my university, which was enough to cover some textbooks.
Q. What was the final factor that make you take the leap to move abroad? What was it that turned it from a dream to reality?
A. I applied to a couple study abroad programs at my university, and I got into Copenhagen Business School, my top choice. I convinced my parents to let me go by informing them that the cost would not differ from what they currently paid for to stay on campus. When they agreed, I knew my wild dream was turning into reality.
Q. What information do you wish you knew before you moved? Do you have any regrets?
A. I wish I knew more details as to how and where to register for healthcare/temporary citizenship. It was difficult obtaining birth control because I was not an actual citizen, and my program did not provide us with any resources. My only regret is not travelling within Denmark more.
Q. Were you able to travel while living abroad?
A. Yes, I traveled to Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Germany.
Q. What was your favorite part about living abroad?
A. I met so many wonderful people through my study abroad program, and I still keep in touch with many of them. It’s nice to have friends all over the world! Also, I was 20 at the time and I could drink anywhere in Europe!
Q. What was your least favorite?
A. Having to go to class. It was “study” abroad after all, and students were a lot more motivated at Copenhagen Business School. The grading scale was different (Going from -2 to 14, but skipping some numbers. Something like that) and little things like formatting regulations and citations for research papers differed so much!
Q. How have cultural differences affected your life abroad? Were there any language barriers? Culture shock stories?
A. Cultural differences were definitely prevalent, but expected and embraced since it was a study abroad program. We were eager to try each other’s food and customs, so there was very little pressure to “fit in”. It was hard to find ingredients for Japanese food; one time I bought tofu in a jar. There were no language barriers with locals since Danish people speak very good English with little to no accent. The biggest culture shock was how safe it was needed there. It was never scary to walk home from the train station at 4am, and I only saw one police car during the six months I spent there.
Q. Did you notice anything unique about being a single woman living abroad? Or being Asian?
A. I had a solid group of friends, so I never felt alone living abroad. It was easier being single, because I got to live in the moment and make memories instead of spending all of my time on Skype. I’m Japanese American, and there weren’t very many people of Asian descent. This alone was not an issue, but when I was on a bus going from Berlin to Munich, immigration only checked my passport and asked for paperwork because I wasn’t white like everybody else. Oddly, I felt less fetishized for my race while abroad even though there were way less Asian people there. People never said the “No, where are you really from?” line that I always get in LA. It was always exciting to run into other Japanese people though!
Q. What is your favorite memory you have while living abroad?
A. Many of my friends lived in the same building as me, and we would all pre-game together and go out to an all-you-can-drink beer bar called Kulorbar. For a window of 3 or 4 hours, you’re handed a mug for a flat fee, and can drink as much as you want. Anywhere from 10 to 20 of us would show up in a large group, obnoxiously drunk and happy. I envy my 20-year old metabolism for handling this on a weekly basis.
Q. How is it making friends abroad? Do you have any dating experiences?
A. It was very easy to make friends abroad, but mostly because hundreds of other students are going through the exact same thing. I had a few dating experiences- one was a friend from Canada , a Danish carpenter, and another friend from my building who was from Scotland. They were all different in a good way, and we had a lot of fun!
Q. Do you hope to move abroad again in the future?
A. Sure! With this unsteady political climate, I wouldn’t be surprised if I willingly moved abroad for work with my boyfriend.
Q. How has living abroad changed your life?
A. I have friends scattered all around the world, and social media has made it very easy to keep in touch with them. Even if I can’t see them all the time, I love that they’re just a flight away. It has made me more open to trying new foods, experiences, and places.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share? Final thoughts on living abroad for someone else considering it.
Moving to another country is always a big deal but as long as you’re considerate of other people’s customs and culture and do your research, it’s really not that bad! Don’t yuck other people’s yum, that’s just a general rule, abroad or not. Don’t be annoying and talk about being abroad all the time if you do come back though, people hate that!
Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions for Shioray! Make sure to contact us if you have need any help planning your big move abroad and check out our other Expat Interview with a musician abroad.