Amy Jazienicki: Leaving Career in Toronto to Teach Abroad in Vietnam
Amy was born and raised Torontonian who has worked as a freelance Learning Experience & Instructional Designer for the last few years. I recently returned from working in Hamburg, Germany due to COVID-19. She also produced a podcast titled 'The Expat Experience'.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name is Nicole, and I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guest, Amy Jazienicki, who is a former expat, who has lived in Germany, China, and Vietnam. Welcome to the show, Amy.
Amy Jazienicki: Hi, Nicole. Thanks for having me.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely excited to hear your story. So you've lived In several countries, but where are you? Where are you originally from?
Amy Jazienicki: So I'm originally from Toronto, Canada, born and raised. And I first became an expat, at the age of like 25, 26. All
Nicole (Host): Right. Very nice. Toronto is beautiful.
Amy Jazienicki: It is. It's a gorgeous city.
Nicole (Host): Yes. Drive up from New York long drive. I will admit, but it was worth it in the end. Loved it.
Nicole (Host): Amazing. So you lived in different countries. So at 25, where did you move to? First?
Amy Jazienicki: Vietnam was my first country and I relocated specifically to Holcim and a city otherwise known as Saigon.
Nicole (Host): Okay. And was there a specific reason or what motivated you to, you know, to move from Toronto to Vietnam?
Amy Jazienicki: That's a story in and of itself, really. So at the time, when I was 25, if I had actually left Toronto to live in a smaller suburb, about an hour away from Toronto and I was working in a job, I really didn't like it. I had gotten my graduate degree in the same subject. So like at least I was working in my field, but I just was not happy.
It was one of those classic cases of studying something, but then the actual lived experience being two totally different things. So I kept, noticing that I kept fantasizing while I was at work. Whenever I had breaks. I'm like, I want to put together a travel itinerary. Like where do I want to go? Because before that, the only place I had just traveled to, like recreationally, was Hong Kong and Thailand.
And that's back when I was like a preteen. So all that time, I hadn't traveled at all. So after a few years of just like, kind of working, you know, I don't want to say the corporate grind, but just like just the nine to five routine. I got kind of tired of it. And I always wanted to try teaching for a year or so.
I decided why not go to Vietnam? There's a huge demand. They had a certification program that you could do, right? When you arrived and you had accommodation and everything and they helped you find work. So that was where I first started.
Nicole (Host): Wow. That's amazing. I'm fantasizing while at work about traveling.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. When you're working, you know, in a corporate job or just something where you tend to do things routinely, for, there's always something that draws you to, you know, what, there's a bigger world out there. Like there's. Places and things that could be doing, that's more enjoyable than this.
So amazing that you made it. Okay. Reality. So how long in the moment you decided, you know, what you want? You'd like to go abroad. How long did it take you to plan everything?
Amy Jazienicki: Well, this is where it gets a little nuts because, and I don't recommend this. But it took me about a month. That's from the time I left my job to getting to Vietnam for a month.
And again, I don't recommend that because that is so stressful and so short, but the reason that it happened that way was because when I registered for my certification course to teach in Vietnam, the next open spot was available in January of the following year. So I decided, okay, I'm just going to have whatever I have.
I've got saved up. Moved back home for a couple of weeks. Got my flight and then just left. Oh, I did it. And again, in hindsight, not something I recommend other people to do because you need more time. And through my other expat experiences, that's how I learned how to plan a little more properly. But I was fortunate because Vietnam is such an affordable place to live like Saigon compared to Toronto, I think it is like an 80% drop in just about everything.
So yeah. It carried me a much longer way than if I had stayed in the city and just waited to, you know, try to find a different job or something like that.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. Well, you're bold, not to many people have done that kind of move, you know, in just a month. So that's amazing. What were some of the things you did during that month?
Amy Jazienicki: So a lot of it was just researching, the city itself a little more. I knew I wanted to live in, I'm just kind of an urbanite. So I knew I wanted to relocate to a major city in the country. but I was choosing between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and I thought it might be a better choice based on what I was doing.
However, I wasn't ready for traffic flow. Cause they don't really have a lot of traffic lights. That's not really a thing. It's just a continuous flow of traffic. So when I first moved there, I was like a child all over again, because I didn't know how to cross the street. Neither did my other foreign friends.
So we actually had to be escorted by, you know, one of the coordinators at the school, which was really embarrassing, but she understood. She's like, yeah, I know where you're from. You're not used to this kind of thing.
Nicole (Host): Wow. That is so interesting and yeah, I can completely imagine, every country is so different when it comes to traffic flow, but I see what you mean.
So what were some of the challenges you have experienced from your relocation? I mean, you made the jump for one month going to Saigon, but then what about your other moves? What were some challenging aspects that you experienced?
Amy Jazienicki: Yeah. So when I relocated to China or when I was planning, that relocation, I had savings, you know, and I was accumulating my savings in order to move and be fine once I got there.
And I was like, I had enough when I first started, you know, for first and last month's rent to get a place because my contract didn't provide housing. They gave you a subsidy bill, so you could choose where you want it to live, which apparently in China is the better thing. So I was really happy about that.
But in terms of the other financial planning aspects, all I could really do in advance at that time was just looking at like cost of living in diocese and see, you know, how much I can anticipate to spend while I'm waiting for my visa to be processed because China is one of those countries that is intensely bureaucratic, and it can take a very long time.
So when you first arrive, you're not going to work like. Within a week probably of you arriving, it's probably going to be two weeks to a month more realistically. So you have to kind of anticipate that. And after my first move to Vietnam, which again, I was lucky because it was much cheaper there. I tried to plan it a little more carefully the second time to think, okay, this is what the cost of living is like in this particular city.
Which was stringent in China and just try it. You don't plan accordingly for that. So I tried to be a few steps ahead, like say for two months, or even save for three, if you can. Because you really don't know how long these are going to be. And yeah, fortunately I was able to find housing pretty quick. I think it was like my third day that I was there.
I'm still jet lagged and I found an apartment. So I'm like, great. That's one thing I can scratch off the list. So I was just a lot more methodical and I used my experience in Vietnam to kind of inform what I should do a little differently. The second time around.
Nicole (Host): Amazing. Well, it sounds like you've had a lot of amazing luck, like moving in a month, finding an apartment three days.
Like that is amazing.
Amy Jazienicki: And what was actually luck. And it's also, I would say, just being hypervigilant, because what I did with China was they use we-chat right. That's kinda, it's like their WhatsApp. So there were groups and communities that did. Like had listings for apartments. So I looked into that in advance and I happen to be in touch with a lady who coincidentally actually worked for the same company that I did, but at a different branch, this small world.
But she had an, just like a bachelor’s studio apartment that I wanted. So I had a coordinator meetup before I got there. So I was, I was a little hypervigilant in that respect because I didn't want to struggle to find housing. Cause I kind of did when I was in Vietnam, although it wasn't as bad as other experiences I've heard of, but that's why it worked out.
So it was finding the right person and just looking in advance as much as he can.
Nicole (Host): Definitely. I mean, that's really great advice because for people who are listening and they're planning their move abroad, if you can do anything upfront, whether it's just researching, networking, connecting with people that are already there, even experts that are already in that country to help give a better picture of what it's like to move, that can make such a tremendous impact for getting settled quicker.
Amy Jazienicki: For sure
Nicole (Host): So what were some things that you didn't expect during your move?
Amy Jazienicki: Well, I can, I can reference my most recent experience, which was in Germany. Germany is a very cash based country, which might surprise a lot of people because it's, it's a developer economy. So you would think that, you know, facilitating electronic payments would be easy in most places.
if you go to like a major chain or something like a Starbucks, then probably. They're equipped with that. But if you go to, you know, just regular cafes or stores, like a lot of places still prefer or only can take cash even in major cities. So that was something I didn't anticipate because I had to keep going to ABMS, which of course has international bank fees on top of it.
So I came, I first arrived with a certain amount of cash. Right. Just, just to have it. but I don't like carrying a lot of cash around. I think most people don't. Right. It just doesn't feel very safe to do so. I had to make a habit of trying to kind of anticipate like after a week or two of being there.
Okay. When I'm out and about yeah. How much do I typically spend in a day and on what, because I'm going to have to withdraw that from my Canadian account until I get my German one set up and that took several months. So that was something I didn't expect.
Nicole (Host): Wow. Yeah, really good point. Because, you know, even for myself moving from the US to France, same thing, like there's many places where.
Either you need to pay with cash or, for example, you need to pay for something online, they want you to wire transfer it. And so it's like, okay, I haven't done this in a long time. Like, how do I do this? so, and obviously opening a bank account, that's just a whole, Experience in another country for sure.
So I completely understand that. And that's a really great point that you made and figured out exactly what you needed during the day, like each day to be able to plan out until you got your German bank account set up. How long were you in Germany for?
Amy Jazienicki: I think about nine months. It got cut short because of the pandemic.
Nicole (Host): Oh, okay.
Do you plan on moving abroad after things get a little settled?
Amy Jazienicki: I absolutely want to, for sure. I'm craving it. but I don't know exactly where I would go. I was actually considering maybe. Somewhere like Latin America. I was thinking maybe Argentina or Chile, for it's just that amount of time.
Cause I'm transitioning into entrepreneurship now freelancing. So I might do a little bit more of like a hybrid of expat plus digital nomadism. I'm not really sure yet. I'm just going to wait and see how the next few months pan out and you know, which countries are, you know, even accepting anybody.
Nicole (Host): If that's the case,Yeah, absolutely. and that's really neat because you've already had, you know, your experience, China, nom, Germany, Latin America, North America. So you're hitting all the different areas. So very cool.
Amy Jazienicki: That's the idea. Yeah. I never actually seriously considered Latin America before, but I haven't even set foot there travel wise.
So I thought, you know what, that's, that's a part of the world that just really intrigues me because I've looked into it. Not nearly as much as I did Asia or Europe.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. Well, the luck on that because, and I'm sure there's so many people even listening that are in Latin America, that could probably point you in the right direction, help you make a decision.
So now looking back, what would you have done differently and planning out your moves? And I know some of them were a little adventurous, so what are some things you would have done differently?
Amy Jazienicki: I don't know because I've done it several times now, so I kind of have my approach nailed down at this point.
I think I probably would have told her. You know, 25 year old Amy, like, you know, you can take a little more time to prepare. You don't need to be in such a rush. It's okay to, you know, dot your I's and cross your T's a little more. but again, that was my first experience and it's kind of inevitable that you're going to make those mistakes, especially when you don't have anyone to model off of.
Yeah. And, and I certainly didn't like my, my mother's cousin who lives in Hong Kong, he's been there forever, but that's, that's his home now. so he didn't go to different places, but technically, you know, he's had expat experience, but now he's a citizen. So I did have some interesting conversations with him, like when I was younger and, you know, cause I was curious about that kind of life, I guess maybe that's what sort of ignited the flame.
But now I, because I've done it several times over, I think I've got a pretty good grasp of it. You know, it's, like I said, I looked into, the cost of living in different places. And I look at everything. Like I look at apartments in the city center, apartments, outside the city center. I look at, you know, the average cost of foods that I buy regularly, you know?
So things like that. I just kind of anticipate, but I know that no matter how much I prepare in advance, of course it's helpful. But once you actually arrive. It's a different story entirely, right? Because like the cash thing, I didn't anticipate that. So then you just kind of have to be adaptive as you go, right.
You plan as much as you can realistically in advance, but until you set foot in the country, You won't really know what you're in for.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. That is very true. And like you said, it doesn't even matter how much you prepare. There's going to be something that's going to surprise you in some way.
Amy Jazienicki: Yep.Definitely.
Nicole (Host): So what advice would you give to someone who's considering moving abroad?
Amy Jazienicki: Well, I think my advice now would probably be a little modified given the times we're living in. So probably the additional consideration would be to make sure you can even get a flight to the places you want to go to.
And that the country I want to relocate to you has taken proper precautions. so not just in terms of trying to flatten the curve, but if they're allowing foreign people to come in, that you do go into quarantine and that, that they, they do all of those things because then, you know, it's probably a decent enough country to, be living and working in.
You know, but that's, that's a brand new consideration. but, outside of that, just regular considerations. you know, like I mentioned before, you'll just research, research, research, you know, as much as you can find out practical details about the place you're living, you're you want to live in.
especially if it's a particular city, you know, it's one thing to look at the country as a whole, but cities and regions can differ very drastically. Right. It's like where I lived in China was in the South, like right by Hong Kong. So that's a very different climate. It's a different culture than say parts of Northern China or even in Germany, like North and South Germany are very different from each other.
So you can, you look into those cultural considerations, which, you know, you can do all that for free. You know, you can just look at YouTube videos and say, search the city you want to live in, region, you know, to be, to narrow it down a little bit. Again, if you look at just one country, you're going to get a much broader picture, which can be valuable in its own.
Right. But it's not narrow enough to help you. So I think looking at that cultural considerations plus financial considerations, You know, availability of housing, which is another big thing. Like I know Berlin, it's not where I lived, but I have friends in Berlin who complain constantly about how hard it is to find housing there.
So cheap or relatively cheap and by Western standards. But it's hard to find one. Yeah. You know, or even expat forums, you know, you can use those two and see if, you know, if you have a city or region you're interested in relocating to, speak to people who are already there. You know, and these are all free ways that you can go about doing that.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely. I mean, really great advice, especially if you're just starting your research. Write off Where you're wanting to go and take all these things into consideration because you're right. Cities and regions can vary drastically in the same country. So trying to figure out, you know, where exactly based on what your personal preference is, would be a good place to relocate.
And of course, housing.
Nicole (Host): Housing is tricky when you are interested, especially in being in an urban city and the housing market. Is very, very complicated. So, glad you mentioned that here, It is very complicated. It could take a while to find housing.
Nicole (Host): Especially even taking into account, when students come in, so you have a lot of international students who study abroad.
Amy Jazienicki:A lot of people come in around September. Which is when I moved. So that was like something that we experienced was like, okay, all housing is taken. There's literally no additional housing and yeah, the city you have to go out.
Nicole (Host): You know, you can do a few tricks in order to, to find housing, but that's something definitely to consider.
So amazing. you've lived in several countries considering again, after, moving to potentially Latin America. so that's really exciting now out of all of the places that you've visited, you've traveled,
Nicole (Host): Where would you say is the best city you've visited?
Amy Jazienicki: As an expert or as a tourist?
Nicole (Host): You can give two.
Amy Jazienicki: Okay. as an expat. Hmm. It's tough to answer that because my priorities have changed a lot, with the different countries I've lived in. So when I lived in Ho Chi Minh, I mean, it's, it's, it's a chaotic city. especially if you're from kind of a follow the rules, kind of Western style city, Holcim and seems like absolute, utter chaos, right.
From an outsider's perspective. but it is kind of, there is order in the chaos. You just have to kind of find it over time. But what I loved about the city is that it's very flexible. So if you're wanting to start a business there, or you want to work different jobs, you know, the immigration office, a little lax, so you can do all the facts.
In Vietnam. Whereas if you were to relocate, say to China, Germany, you have to be very specific about why you're there and which job your visa is tied to. So it's not nearly as flexible in that way. So if you're looking for something that is going to keep you kind of rooted, Then countries like that might be a better choice.
Whereas if you're more of a, you've got more of a nomadic streak in you, or you're very entrepreneurial, you know, somewhere like Vietnam is probably going to suit you better. but in terms of cities, themselves for living, I loved how cheap and affordable just Holcim and the food is healthy.
Like it's, it's just great. I loved that aspect of it. whereas in Hamburg I liked it a lot more for culture and because I got more immersed in the German language, I kind of appreciated it in a whole other way. so as an expert, I think those would be probably two places I did really like. but as far as tourists are concerned, Yeah, that's tough.
Probably between like Tokyo, I loved Tokyo. I thought it was such a wicked place. cm reap in Cambodia and you'd be Reykjavik in Iceland. Yeah.
Nicole (Host): Very different places you just mentioned, for sure. But breathtaking. So love those things you just mentioned, very awesome. So it was nice to learn about your journey and, you know, even the exciting adventure you took to just make a decision, you know, leave your job and just go across the world, to experience life in a different culture.
So that's really inspiring and I'm sure that those who are listening are also like, wow, can you know what, I can do this of course it takes proper research, you know? Find what's gonna work out for you. and. There's places all over too, to consider.
So, really great and exciting. And I'm glad that it's worked out for you because after that first time you moved abroad again and again, and are still considering, you know, after, after everything in the world.
Nicole (Host): So that's so exciting.
Amy Jazienicki: It is. Yeah. And it's one of those experiences. It really, I know it's so cliche to say, but it does change you. It really does, because before I left, I was a lot more of a worrywart and kind of neurotic about everything. And of course it's important to plan. It's important to research, but at the end of the day, you just kind of have to learn how to go with the flow of things.
And you learn to accept certain facets of a place because you know where you're from is the same way. It's just that we're so accustomed to it that we don't necessarily think about it. In the same way, but every place has its quirks. So it's really just a matter of finding which place, which quirks resonate with you or that you're willing to tolerate, you know?
but all in all, you're just looking for, you know, your why, right? Like why do you want to move abroad? Is it because you want more international work experience? Is it because you just want to travel more? You know, I think that is going to kind of help you, get a sense of your bearings, so to speak, right?
Because then it'll influence. The countries are influencing your decision making in terms of which countries you're considering too. Definitely.
Nicole (Host): I love that. You said like it changes you, it does. It changes your mind. It changes your perspective.
Amy Jazienicki: Truly just opens up
Nicole (Host): The way you see the world. And, you know, having an opportunity to live in their culture is really just going to make the world seem.
Bigger. I don't know. It just is, it's a great experience. So I always like to ask how can our listeners find you on social media?
Amy Jazienicki: Sure. Yeah. So I've got a podcast of my own, where I discuss expat experiences and it's appropriately called The Expat Experience. So you can find that on Apple podcasts, you can find it on Spotify and also on Pod Beam.
And on social media. there's also a Facebook page for the podcast, just type in The Expat Experience and you'll find it. my Instagram, if anyone's interested it’s @Teaaficionado because I'm just addicted to tea. Although you won't see images of TMI and stuff, that's okay. That's where you can find me.
Nicole (Host): Love it. Awesome. Thank you, Amy so much for sharing your journey with us. And of course, we're going to include all the links in the description so that anyone who wants to follow along your journey even beyond they can find your channels there. So thank you so much, Amy.
Amy Jazienicki: Awesome. Thanks for having me on.