I was psyched to graduate from Georgia State in May 2012, but in my mind, I was already on to the next thing. Or place. In my case, it was Germany.
I arrived in Berlin just five weeks after my graduation. I didn’t know the first thing about visas, citizenship, foreign banking, or German housing and employment laws — not to mention, you know, Deutsch sprechen. But I dove in headfirst. Within five days of my arrival, I secured the internship I came for, negotiated a temporary sublet and got the ball rolling on the big, bureaucratic visa process.
Looking back, I can clearly see how my intensely independent student experience at Georgia State prepared me for the challenges of moving abroad.
Georgia State is not a coddling, insular campus that holds students’ hands. It’s a badge of honor to work your way to a degree — whether you part-time jobbed your way through with a Pell Grant, having to take breaks from school to save money for tuition, or matriculated in four taut years. Georgia State requires tenacity and grit — something that translates particularly well to life in another country.
I’m back in the States now. I got a full-time job in Berlin with the European headquarters of an American company, but my grandparents’ health began to decline, and I decided to uproot and move to Texas to be closer to them and hear their stories before they were lost to me.
I recently talked to my friend, Josalin Saffer, who also moved overseas right after graduation. She mentioned the same appreciation for how our unique university experience taught us the independence, adaptability and skills to live life, no matter where it took us. I decided to catch up with her and two other alumni who had relocated abroad to find out how they went about building their adoptive lives and why they plan to stay.
Josalin Saffer (B.A. ’11), Wellington, New Zealand
After graduating with her journalism degree, Saffer started a teaching certificate program in Thailand. You pay for it, train for a month, earn the degree and have a guaranteed job on the other side. So, she threw herself into Thai language and customs for the year.
At the end of the year, Josalin returned to Atlanta and found herself grounded back where she’d started — a tough break after having already flown the coop.
“I graduated, I lived abroad, and now I was back in my home city working at a burger restaurant,” Saffer said. “So that really kind of hit me hard. Then I decided, you know what? I know who would hire me — the rest of the world.”
So she set out again, this time to the Czech Republic (recently renamed Czechia), where she taught English. That’s where she met Filip, a Czech man, and the pair moved to Wellington, New Zealand, together in July 2016 on working holiday visas. In Wellington, she’s putting her Georgia State degree to work as a writer and Web content editor for a travel media company.
Saffer says that, ultimately, she found a sense of home in her partnership.
“I realized that I’ve got this great relationship and this relationship is willing to move with me. That was when I kind of accepted that this is my home,” she said.
Daniel Beauregard (B.A. ’11), Buenos Aires, Argentina
After three and a half years reporting the news for the Champion Newspaper in Decatur, Ga., Daniel Beauregard decided to explore the finer side of writing – poetry. He was accepted into a master’s degree program for poetry at a university in Colorado, but before he enrolled, he moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I didn’t really look at it as this giant leap of faith sort of thing,” Beauregard said. “If it didn’t work out, I’d just head back home.”
Like Saffer, Beauregard initially found work teaching English, but he’s carved out his career there in creative writing.
Alongside his old college buddy Alex Gregor (B.A. ’11, M.A. ’14), Beauregard co-founded OOMPH Press, a literary journal based in Buenos Aires and Rome that focuses on translating poetry from around the world into English.
Beauregard also met his wife, an Argentinian woman, while living in Buenos Aires, and the couple plans on staying for the foreseeable future.
“Home is where you feel most comfortable,” he said. “Whether that’s a house or a thousand miles away from where you were born.”
Beauregard does have other options to relocate if wanderlust strikes again. He was born in Canada and has citizenship there, and thanks to his Sicilian-born grandmother, he’s eligible for Italian citizenship, too.
Coco Hunter (B.B.A. ’10), Zug and Geneva, Switzerland
Despite a lifelong dream of trotting the globe, Coco Hunter didn’t study abroad in college. After graduating with dual degrees in marketing and managerial sciences and earning a certificate in hospitality administration, she bided her time working in sales and marketing.
Yearning for a break from the grind and itching to travel, Hunter abruptly quit her job to take off on an adventure.
Hunter’s travels led her to 39 cities in 17 countries. While sitting in a bar in Paris, she met some executives from a French cosmetics company. Hunter could converse with them — she took French at Georgia State — and she played up her marketing background. They offered her a job on the spot, but there was a catch: She would have to move to Dubai.
The job kept her on the road, traveling across the Middle East for work. What eventually grounded her? Like Saffer and Beauregard, it was love. She met her boyfriend while traveling and eventually got tired of the long-distance commute to see him in Switzerland. Now she runs a travel blog called “Coco Gone Global” and freelances for travel websites and apps, writing hotel and restaurant reviews and more.
“After having such freedom as a digital nomad, I have no idea how I’d ever return back to corporate life,” she said.
Abby Carney is a Brooklyn-based journalist from Atlanta. Follow along with her @abbymcarney.
Illustrations by Steve Wacksman