As any expat knows, moving abroad is challenging, especially with school-age children in tow. Having just come through two years of pandemic isolation, we weren’t sure how the kids would fare in a different country, with a new home, school, and environment. They haven’t just survived through — they’ve thrived. It’s been amazing to watch them explore unfamiliar places and make new friends. They’ve been unfailingly brave, and ready to try anything, no matter how chilly the temperature outside. I can’t help but think that this whole adventure abroad has helped them develop more resilience, and empowered them to be more courageous. It’s even had a positive impact on us adults too, teaching me that embracing the unknown can bring huge rewards.
There have been a few resources I’ve found helped me along the way. Allianz Care’s expat hub, for example, has some great podcasts, webinars, and blog posts that focus on adapting to a life abroad. Social media is useful too, as I’m able to research common challenges and discover new opportunities by searching locations and hashtags. Mostly though, I’ve enjoyed talking to other people who’ve lived a similar experience: relatives who made their homes abroad many years ago, work colleagues who travel overseas all the time, and newfound friends who are also adjusting to a different way of life.
Being here in Canada has made it easier, in some ways, to enrich the kids’ experience of their cultural heritages. With such a large community of Chinese-Canadian people here, it’s easy to shop for culinary ingredients, visit authentic restaurants, and celebrate annual holidays. At school, the kids exchange gifts for the Lunar Year, as well as St. Patrick’s Day, Canada Day, Indigenous Day, and lots more festivities in between. They have friends from all over the world, who are all navigating the same experience of being a fish-out-of-water together.
Now that our first year abroad is coming to a close, we’re taking stock. While some of it has been hard, undoubtedly, on the whole it’s been great for our family. It’s no fun navigating government bureaucracy or international visas, but there’s a lot of joy in the overseas experience, if you know where to look. I’ll never forget our eldest’s giggles as he careered down the slope on his first ski lesson. Or our daughter’s impassioned insistence on wearing a pair of proper Canadian cowboy boots to school every day. And our toddler’s gasps as he found himself face to face with a deer fawn, equally curious about his new human friend.
They’re the experiences we’ll carry in our hearts as we embark on the next part of our expat journey. We still don’t know where our forever home will be, but for the moment, we’re going to enjoy every day of our Irish-Canadian family life — cowboy boots and all.