Can Anyone Become an Expat?

There are many obstacles one faces when one becomes an expat: a new language, a new culture, being friendless, maybe some gross food and also money. Having an upper middle class background, money never seemed to hinder anything my family did. So when I came to Berlin, honestly, I never thought how much it would truly cost. Sure, I knew it would cost money, but I never thought it could hold me back. Now after six months and a deadline after which my mom doesn’t want to fund my adult life, I ask myself,” how will I pay for this?” I have no visa to work and only one thousand dollars. It almost sounds romantic but when I think about it I become uneasy. Leaving Berlin and moving back “home” is something that I dread. It is the first time in my life where lack of money could prevent me from obtaining something I want.

My American friends come from different socio-economic backgrounds: a couple wealthier than my family and few “poorer” than we are. Since we graduated from high school one of my friends has spent the last seven months in South and Central America teaching English and generally enjoying himself. My two other friends have taken out college loans. It is a contrast that makes me ask; can anyone become an expat?

Of course there are different types of expats, adventure seekers, university exchanges, do gooders and “tired of life where I used to live” types of expats. I define myself as a “tired of where I live expat.” My friend in Latin American is the adventure seeker and our families are relatively similar in terms of wealth. Clearly we have no problem leaving and doing what we want. But what about my two other friends with college loans; could they one day wake up and just leave as I did? Six months earlier I told myself, “anybody can leave, they just need to want it; like really want it.” Sadly, I think I was wrong.

With my expenses being around one thousand dollars per month, my friends would need to save around six thousand dollars while eating, paying rent, having a car and managing college. Minimum wage in the United States is seven dollars and ninety cents an hour (before taxes), so with some easy math I figure my friends would need to work a little under one thousand hours to be able to live abroad. It is almost not doable. In addition, minimum wage isn’t enough to live on in the US, but that’s another problem.

I have been attending a language school, and naturally every one there is foreign. A group of seventy or so Brazilians are also learning German in preparation for the next of year in a German university. Their program is funded by the government. Nearly all of them are studying some sort of engineering; an area in which Brazil wants specialists.

The others are people with the same economic background as I have: one’s dad is in the parliament of Azerbaijan, one’s mom is the second in command of the Jordanian UN and one’s dad is high up in some company (the kid wasn’t sure what his dad exactly did). In my everyday world I’m still with people relatively similar to me, leading me to believe that everyone in my world receives support, whether from a university or a parent. But a spontaneous, “I’m outta this town,” seems impossible without help. Not sure if everybody and anybody can become an expat without having a job already lined up or trust fund back home.

By Ryan Edgar

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