Brown Mom Abroad Interview Series
BMA: Introduce yourself!
I am Nicole Bennett and I’m from Houston, Texas and I currently live abroad in Abu Dhabi with my 12-year-old daughter. We just recently moved here in August 2015. I was an English teacher in the U.S. prior to me moving to the U.A.E, and now I’m teaching English to all girls. I taught in the U.S. for 10 years and I just needed a change, I felt as though my passion for teaching was gone. So, after my divorce from my daughter’s father I decided to take a risk and do something that I had never done before. Therefore, once I got permission from Chloe’s father to bring our daughter to the U.A.E. was the final push I needed to put things into motion. As far as any other relationship, I keep in touch with the person that matters most. However, I am mostly focused on accomplishing the goals that I set for myself, and staying focused on the reason I came to the U.A.E.
BMA: At what age did you and your child(ren) receive your passports?
I received my passport in 2012. I only applied because I needed it to attend my friend’s wedding in Mexico. My daughter Chloe received her passport at age 11, and it was right before we moved to Abu Dhabi in 2015.
BMA: Do you speak (or currently learning) any language other than English?
I speak English only; however, my daughter is learning to speak Arabic, and she is teaching me. Our home is filled with post it notes of Arabic words giving the English translations.
BMA: Can you list all the countries you’ve lived in?
I lived in the USA all my life, and then I moved to the UAE, so that marks two countries for me. However, I’m always looking on the map to determine where I would like to move to next.
BMA: What made you decide to live abroad?
Honestly, I was just at a point in my teaching career where I needed a change. I wanted to be able to teach in environment where kids valued education. I wanted to travel and expose my daughter to different things in life. She’s been exposed to a lifestyle in which she will appreciate and understand even more when she is older. I do feel like moving has given me a chance to reinvent myself, clear my mind and accomplish things goals that I would not have had an opportunity to accomplish. I’m mostly proud of our book club that we created, called Sparkle Club Books. Since I’ve been in the UAE. I’ve had more time to sit and plan, and I’m excited for the world to see what we have to offer. My ultimate goal is to inspire girls to dream big in a world of endless possibilities.
BMA: Have you experienced any discrimination while living abroad?
I can’t say that I’ve experienced any forms of discrimination, however the culture and traditions can be an issue at times. For instance, with the different types of clothing I wear can cause the locals to stare if they feel like it’s too revealing. So, I definitely have to be more conscious of my attire; it’s totally different from living in the USA. Yet, I would not call it discrimination, it’s a different culture and I have to adjust to my environment.
BMA: What do you wish you knew before moving abroad?
I wish knew more about the schools that were offered to expat children, so that I could have made the best choice for my daughter upon arrival. It would have been better if I knew where I would have been placed prior to arriving in a new country. It was limited information, and there is not a lot of assistance with this process. It would be great if there was a mentoring program for parents, so that they can make the best decision and talk to other parents that can relate to the new transition.
BMA: If married, did you meet your husband abroad? Or, do you currently date abroad? If so, what’s your experience like?
Dating is difficult in America, and dating is difficult in the UAE, so my prediction is that dating is difficult all around the world.
BMA: How long do you plan on living abroad?
Well I haven’t really decided, however I do feel like because I moved to the UAE, that I could live anywhere in the world now. I never lived outside of the USA, and taking that risk to leave everything behind has definitely giving me strength and courage to trust God, and live.
BMA: What do you miss most about home?
I miss the food! I am from Texas, and it’s just certain foods that I can only get from down south. Some of the foods that I miss are gumbo, shrimp etouffee, fried fish, shrimp and grits, and backyard cookouts.
BMA: Tell us about when you were first bitten by the ‘travel bug’!
My daughter and I went to Disneyland in California, and we had so much fun. I realized that I can travel with her, and that I enjoyed it. Then we went to Egypt, and had an awesome time. Once we came back from Egypt, I created a new bucket list, and there are destinations that I’m looking forward to visiting. I remember growing up as a young girl I would see places on T.V., but I never imagined or thought it was possible to go, but now all I see is possibility. I hope that through my travel experiences that I can inspire some little girl who have dreams of traveling the world, to know that it is possible.
BMA: What advice can you share with families thinking of moving abroad?
I would say that you should definitely research the area that you planned to move to. It’s going to be scary at first, and you will have a lot of challenges adjusting to a new environment. Once you get through those phases the rewards of accomplishing this goal is great. Initially, everything wasn’t easy, I remember coming home from work one day and looking at the white walls in my apartment, and crying. I kept asking myself “What made me move here?” I was trying to be strong for my daughter, but in reality I just wanted to pack my bags and go home. One of things that help me overcome my homesickness was looking at my daughter and seeing how she was adjusting so well to this new environment. I could not let her down; I knew if I quit in the middle of the trial, my daughter would not have me to look up to. Ultimately, that gave me the courage to keep pushing towards my goals.
BMA: How do your kids feel about living abroad? Were they born abroad?
Initially, my daughter didn’t like the idea of moving abroad, because she didn’t want to leave her school and friends. Also, this was her first time out of the country, but I told her she would make new friends. Now she is soaring like an eagle at her new school, and her social life abroad is better than mine. Some of the activities that she participates in are basketball, dance & volleyball; they have similar activities like the U.S.A. Also, she enjoys hanging out at the mall with her friends, and slowly she is not mentioning her friends from home as much anymore.
BMA: Have you traveled while living abroad? If so, what city or country is your favorite and least favorite place to visit? Why?
I absolutely loved visiting Egypt. The pyramids were beautiful and there was so much history to explore. I still feel like I need to go back because there were so many places I still would like to visit.
BMA: Can you list all the cities/countries you’ve visited?
- USA – Texas, Louisiana, New York, California, Las Vegas, Colorado, and Florida.
Also, I just booked tickets for this summer to France, and I plan to backpack in Europe.
BMA: What do you wish you knew before you decided to start traveling?
How to pack lightly, and that you don’t need to try to bring your entire closet. I’ve learned some really neat ways to pack my suitcase and not go over the weight limit. I usually just roll my daughter and I clothes in the same suitcase, it is very convenient traveling through the airports with one luggage instead of two or three.
BMA: What’s your advice for moms who are thinking of traveling with kids?
I definitely would wait until the kids are older, so that they can remember and enjoy the experience too. I think a good age would be 9 years old and older for children to move from their home.
BMA: How do you finance your traveling?
I usually travel when I see a deal, it’s not certain time of year that I travel. If I see a deal, I’ll book it and arrange it around vacation time, or I’ll take a short weekend trip. I came out here to save, but there is no way to save and travel, so I’d rather sacrifice buying a Louis Vuitton bag for a weekend getaway.
BMA: How often do you travel?
I would love to travel every time I get a break, but you can’t travel and save at the same time. So I have to keep things in perspective to some of the reasons I chose to move abroad. One of my main reasons for moving was that I wanted to clear some debt, and I have been managing my money well enough to do that too.
BMA: What are your top 3 travel tips for moms?
- Prepare snacks and sandwiches for the airplane ride.
- Have your kid(s) research the places that you are traveling to prior to going. So, instead of having a ton of questions before we go visit a place; she can be more engaged to find out if what she read was the truth. It’s a great interactive experience for her, so that she won’t get bored, because kids get bored real quick these days, lol.
- Relax and go with the flow of things, it’s a vacation. So, I don’t always book a tour prior to going on vacation, and it is less stressful, but it depends on the location too.
BMA: What are your favorite expat/travel resources?
BMA: What’s your traveling style? Are you spontaneous or detail-oriented?
I’m a combination of both. It just depends on the destination. For instance, for a weekend getaway, I’m more spontaneous, but if I’m going to Egypt I’m going to be detail-oriented, because I don’t want to miss anything.
BMA: How can we follow your journey?
Facebook: Sparkle Club Books
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