Abroad While Black: GK Life Lessons is a custom list that we created to highlight some of the advantages and benefits of living and/or working abroad while black. The list will continue to grow regularly, so don’t forget to check for updates.

In the last few years, an unprecedented number of black millennials have hopped on international flights and discovered parts of the world their parents had never even heard of, let alone considered traveling to. Social media sites have emerged with images of black travelers doing some of the most stuntastic things you can imagine while on vacation: that one guy dabbing while on a camel ride in the Sahara dessert, or those girls whose entire clique was in formation while posing on the highest summit in the Himalaya’s wearing #blackgirlmagic t-shirts. We could go on.

However, living and/or working abroad for an extended period of time is still somewhat of an uncharted territory for most blacks. If you happen to be the type of black person who was courageous enough to fly across the world to take on that one-year assignment for your firm, or start an International Business masters degree at a South Korean university, you’d be hard pressed to find other black folks doing the same thing. The good news is, we are definitely outchea, just hard to find.

The next time you find yourself in a rut where you are either unenlightened, unchallenged, unhappy, or unproductive, we’d recommend leaving for a while. We have a list we’ve been adding new tidbits to over time:

  1. You will have an immediate impact on the perception of Black American culture.
  2. You will learn to appreciate where you come from. 
  3. You will become more competitive for whatever you pursue.

Many people have found themselves still living under their parents’ roof or paycheck to paycheck in their 20s and 30s in spite of making good life choices. Some United States job markets are oversaturated, it’s hard to compete, and yet Fannie Mae still knocks at your door every month. If you find yourself fruitlessly chasing one opportunity to the next, leave. Even if you enjoy living with your parents in order to save money and regroup, there are good opportunities waiting for you abroad.

There was a time when having global experience was really only necessary for those that wanted to work in the international arena, you know, the UN, diplomat, NGO types. In a general sense, demonstrating the ability to adapt to a new culture and thrive while gaining exposure to a global worldview is now a valued skillset for all careers. Specifically, knowing a foreign language, possessing expertise of a world region, or developing functional experience in a geographic region and being able to bring that back to your company/organization is even better.

You may find that the type of job you want is easier to find in another country. When/if you decide to return to the United States you will be equipped with a skillset that distinguishes you from others.

Look, we don’t have all the answers, but we do know that living, learning, and working abroad is somewhat undervalued in the black community. But now is the time to break new barriers and expand the limitations of your own understanding. To quote the late, great Nina Simone, “To be young, gifted, and black is where its at.”


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