Living abroad is not for the faint-hearted
I am a Girl Gone International because...
I love seeing empowered young women supporting one another. Living abroad is not for the faint-hearted and it's easy to feel isolated when you're hundreds if not thousands of miles (or kilometers!) away from your family and friends.
In my search for a new support system in Frankfurt, I stumbled upon GGI Berlin and was inspired to start a similarly warm and open-minded community for international women in the Rhein-Main region.
Where do you live or where are you right now and why?
I moved to Frankfurt in June of 2016 and am currently working in HR consulting. Before moving here I had slowly tested the waters to see if life in Germany was truly what I wanted. After a gap year, an 8-month semester abroad, a summer internship, and 2 years of a long-distance relationship, I decided to take the leap and move here after graduation.
What it is like living in your city as a GGI (ups and downs)?
Frankfurt might have a bad rep across Germany, but it has a lot to offer if you approach it with the right mentality. Like many places, Frankfurt is really what you make of it; and in my experience, if you seek (hard enough) you will most likely find. There is a wealth of cultural events, music performances, and art exhibits if you look in the right places.
The city is peppered with low-key hipster venues--indie cinemas, tucked away cafes, pop-up art shows--and unlike Berlin they aren't overflowing with tourists. However, I'd say that Frankfurt's biggest (and most ironic) hidden secret is that there is so much to explore outside the city limits.
The Taunus mountain range offers the perfect nature escape with gorgeous vistas and easy-to-find trails. The Rheingau wine region is ideal for a weekend of hiking, cycling, and tasting your way through the vineyards. Neighbouring cities like Mainz and Wiesbaden and smaller historic towns like Höchst and Kronberg are also worth exploring for their own unique flairs and flavours. Among the Germans, Frankfurt has picked up the nickname "Mainhattan". Full of young working people--many in finance, banking, consulting, and real estate--Frankfurt is markedly more career-oriented and work-focussed than most other major German cities.
Based on my observations, people tend to develop their social connections through work or their university network, and young professionals often find close friends among their colleagues. However, Frankfurters seem more shy about venturing outside their current social groups and there are currently limited platforms for young international people to meet one another. Hopefully, with the growth of GGI Frankfurt, this will soon change.
Knowing what you know now, about this lifestyle, about the world and yourself. What would you go back and tell your younger self?
I haven't been here for too long, so I'm sure this will change with time. However, if I could go back in time I would tell myself that it won't be easy but it'll definitely be worth it.
What does 'community' mean to you?
To me community is a safe space in which I feel accepted and valued for who I am. Being a community member entails supporting other members and ensuring that they, too, feel accepted and valued within the group.
What keeps you living far from where you started?
What keeps me going is the desire to have agency over my own life. I was unhappy with the noxiously competitive environment I grew up in and the societal pressures that perpetuated it. Coming to Germany was my way of changing the context and giving myself a blank--or at least neutral--slate in which I could set my own standards and expectations.
What does 'home' mean to you?
For me, "home" is with the people I love dearly. I have many homes throughout the world--with my nuclear family in the states, with my relatives in Taipei, with my host family in northern Germany, and with my best friend/ex-housemate in Berlin.
How can you make a 'home' wherever you find yourself?
An easy way to make "home" wherever you find yourself is by making sure that you are confident in who you are or at least the person you are striving to become. By working on yourself and growing into the person you wish to be, it will be easier to feel at peace and "at home" with just yourself.
Where do you hang out in the city?
I absolutely love the Main. As an avid runner there is nothing better than a long weekend run along the river and wrapping it up with an Alkoholefreies Weizen at the Oosten Cafe.
What piece of advice would you give a girl wanting to go international?
Trust your gut but also plan ahead. I was already fluent in the language and familiar with the culture when I moved to Germany, but the transition was still a bumpy ride. Be sure to manage your expectations and have a support network in place--friends/family at home who you can always reach out to and 1-2 individuals you trust and could contact in case of emergency in the place you want to move to. Simply knowing that help is just a phone call away will help ease a lot of the anxiety you may face.
Any love stories?
I met my boyfriend of 3 years on Tinder. So yeah, girls, keep swiping right.