Why did you move abroad?
After my Ph.D., I applied for a job in Switzerland. I wanted to travel and experience life outside the US, and as luck would have it, I got the job! I packed my bags, and the rest was history.
Since then, I've lived in the UK and France (Paris and Strasbourg) and traveled all over the world. I've been living abroad for almost 9 years, and I don't see myself returning to the US anytime soon.
How have you been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis?
Everyone has been affected in some way by the Covid-19 crisis. I am very lucky that my life was not impacted too negatively. I was able to keep my job and work from home. I do miss not being able to travel as I would like, but this is nothing to complain about considering the impact it's had on the world.
What sort of measures are in place in the country where you live?
There have been 3 lockdowns in France, all with varying degrees of severity. We are, currently, in the third lockdown and are unable to travel more than 10km from our home. Masks are required in all public places and social distancing measures have been implemented. Bars, restaurants, schools, and gyms are also closed.
Everyone tries their best to follow the rules here in France. It is, however, obvious that people are struggling with the lockdowns. In general, everyone is hoping that things will go back to normal as soon as possible.
How do you make a living?
I am a project manager for European doctoral programs. My job allows me to work from anywhere. With the new restrictions, I am currently working from home. It's a new adventure that, for the most part, I do enjoy. I created a space that is comfortable and allows me to be efficient.
How do you manage the relationship with your family in your home-country?
I communicate with my family on a regular basis. We use Whatsapp and Facebook messenger to send messages almost every day. Then, we facetime on the weekends. Even though I live on the other side of the ocean, it's like I never left!
Without thinking about the current pandemic, what's your favorite thing about being an expat in France?
There are a lot of things that I love about France. In general, the quality of life in France is very high. The healthcare is outstanding, the food is delicious, and there is a great work/life balance. Cultivating a positive work/life balance was new for me. When I worked in the US, I only had 10 vacation days and worked very long hours. And now, I have 36 days, which gives me ample time to enjoy my life outside of work.
And what's the worst thing about being an expat in France?
For me, the worst part about being in France is the bureaucracy. Everything has an over-complicated process that usually involves a lot of paperwork. The procedures are not always clear and can change, depending on who processes your file. It takes a lot of time and patience to get simple tasks completed.
What do you miss most?
Since I am from Chicago, I miss deep-dish pizza and BBQ food. It's just not the same anywhere else.
Before the social distancing measures, what did you do to meet people in get familiar with your country? How has it changed now?
Before social distancing measures, I met people through work and friends' parties. Now, meeting new people is significantly more challenging. So, I focus on maintaining strong relationships with my current circle of friends.
What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
French like to give what is called 'la bise' (i.e. two kisses on the cheek) when they see each other. For me, it's quite strange to do that with people outside your family or very close friends. I've tried my best to adapt and get used to it, but it's not for me.
What is a myth about your adopted country?
It's been said that the French are unfriendly. And I would have to strongly disagree with this.
In my personal experience, I found that speaking French made the biggest difference. The more fluent I became the more I was able to interact with French people. If you start speaking English you might not get a friendly response, but, a few words in French, will go a long way.
What advice would you give other expats?
Moving abroad is never easy, and it's important to have a strong network of friends and family to support you when times are difficult. Connecting with other expats is also very useful. Most expats encounter similar difficulties, and it can be reassuring to share your experiences.
I would also advise other expats to learn the language of their adopted country. It will be significantly easier to understand the culture and integrate.
Image 3- Jen at the base camp of Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador
When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog, Dabbling in Jet Lag, in April 2020. My website has four main topics, travel, adventure, moving abroad, and photography. Within these areas, I write about overcoming fears, accomplishing goals, and finding happiness. My writing describes the story while my photography shows its beauty.
Traveling is where I found my happiness, and I hope to inspire others to venture out into the unknown, test their limits, seek adventure, and find their passion.
The blog details: Dabbling in Jet Lag
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