Lessons Learned from My First International Assignment

I knew that I always wanted to live abroad. Following a safari to Kenya in 1989 I was hooked on adventure. What I did not realize was that I would begin to crave new experiences and international travel.  This became patently clear after a stint working in Latin America in 1992. By the time I returned to my home state of New Hampshire I recognized that something was very different. Me. I then began asking the question “where to next?”

The answers involved travel across the United States. From Miami to Anchorage, Salt Lake to DC.  Living in each place was great; however, the burning desire to have an overseas adventure did not go away.  Finally, some 19 years following that African safari, I had the opportunity to live and work in the Middle East. This was with an international relocation to Kuwait. Going was a mixed decision but, when I came down to it, the only viable answer was “why not?”  I knew that my professional life would have been virtually the same if I remained in the U.S.  The truth was that scared me more than the thought of the unknown.  This made me recognize that the only answer could be to “just go.”

The time in between the announcement of the move and my report date was quite short which resulted in limited preparation.  Aside from the legalities and administrative details all of the personal adjustment was left up to me to figure out.  As an Expatriate Leadership Coach, I am often asked what advice I would give a new expatriate. When I look back on my pre-departure, three things are now very clear.  These tips apply to a person going abroad for the first time or an expatriate moving from one country to another: maintain an open mind, become comfortable with not knowing and embrace the learning process.

I fondly recall how everything was so new during the first months of my expatriate assignment. I had made a commitment to myself to embrace everything. Exciting and stimulating, yet uniquely odd at the same time.  Each day allowed me to further experience being out of my comfort zone.  Sometimes I did not know how to behave, what to do and what to say. Not knowing how to act or what a particular outcome would be of an action I had taken was concerning.  As I re-framed my perspective and looked at the amazing life experience I began to have more patience with myself. This resulted in me finding ease with those uncomfortable moments.  I also recognized that those around me had more patience with me, so why didn’t I?

When I was faced with accepting the assignment or not, I am thrilled that I answered “why not?” and embarked on the international relocation.  I now speak Arabic, have a complete understanding of what it is like to live, work and do business in the Middle East. As a result, I expanded my global perspective. The resulting growth means that I am not the same person after my expatriate adventure.  It was a wonderful experience that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life and has truly helped to define who I am today.

In addition to keeping an open mind, becoming comfortable with not knowing and embracing the learning opportunity I also recommend to educate yourself as much as possible about the country, culture and expectations prior to your move.  Become aware of what you will be responsible for and know what your company will handle.  Every bit of preparation will set you up for a successful international relocation and memories for a lifetime.  When you are faced with the question of “where to next?” you will be more prepared to go and be glad that you did.

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About the Author

Scott Masciarelli

Scott Masciarelli is a certified professional coach and accomplished leader with extensive professional experience in the U.S., Latin America and Middle East. He has spent several years living overseas as an expatriate and brings a global perspective to his work. He is passionate about working with expatriates, leaders and busy professionals who are asking themselves "what next?" He says, "I love this question because it allows an exploration of possibilities to unfold. It's both exciting and transformational." Scott holds a BCC (Board Certified Coach) certification and an ACC (Associate Certified Coach) and GCC (Group Certified Coach) with the International Coach Federation. He is a graduate of International Coach Academy's Certified Professional Coach Program and member of the training faculty for ICA where he facilitates coaching classes for a global student body. His university education is in the field of Psychology and he has a keen interest in the areas of self-improvement, finance and business. This blend of the human side, business, leadership with a global perspective creates a highly productive coaching environment for expatriates. He is an avid world traveler who has visited and worked in over 65 countries. Travel inspired him to study Spanish, Italian and Arabic as part of his commitment to being a perpetual learner. His business strengths are in start-ups, transitions and in building engaged teams within a productive environment based on respect and idea sharing. Scott leads from the heart and he encourages and shows others to do the same both at work and in their personal lives. It is through this integration of our professional and personal goals that we can feel truly alive.

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