Preparing for a Life Abroad

By Jeanna Hardesty

The long awaited day that we had prepared for so diligently as a family had finally arrived. I felt strongly about my children not inheriting the systematic blind spots in thinking and the way of doing things that comes from the preverbal insular status quo of so many before them. I was in search of the best possible future for them. A passport they would come to brag about. My husband and I dreamed of raising pragmatic, engaged human beings that would be open to challenging their own assumptions and willing to listen to their deepest inner voice. “Globalization” and the “world is small” were here to stay, there would be no turning back, this would be our true catalyst.

Our family of four would say goodbye to our life as we knew it. The 72 degrees weather all year around and the perfect beaches that our beloved San Diego had to offer would be missed. We enjoyed the thought of being part of something larger. Westernized medicine in the Middle East, state-of-the-art hospitals, the most affluent country in the world and most important, the ancient ways of the Arab people and their culture. This adventure could only bring about great things and wonderful learning opportunities.

Embarking on our 24-hour flight, albeit first class, makes for an interesting travel experience. On to a new land of everything but 72 degrees weather and what I would later describe as imperfection. As we landed from our flight, I noticed that the children had begun to structure their attention to the small things. They were not able to take for granted the old assumptions about the new surroundings. This would become our semi-permanent mindset for the next four years.

The first few weeks would become a haze of meet and greets, endless cocktails parties, expat lunches, boat trips and desert safaris with new families that had just arrived and many families with stories of great times we would have to look forward to. We met some families that had lived the in the territory for decades. My husband would later define our introductory period as the ‘Freshman Dormitory’, a frenzy of friendly faces and endless family time. My children and I would meet friends that would last a life time and the other that would turn up everywhere without fail. The one thing I instantly loved most was the fact that American’s were rare and my blonde children would quickly become aware of this fact as well.

There is much to be excited about, as you should be, but be prepared. You will be anxious to embark, but err on the conservative side at every turn, even if it means waiting extra weeks or months prior to you and your family departing to a foreign country. As your flight lands your life becomes a whirlwind of excitement and challenges; take every precaution to prepare yourself stateside, where you already have established contacts and resources.

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