Michelle Ibarra in Shanghai
I am a Girl Gone International because...
I am curious and observant. I love walking around new towns and checking the nooks and crannies of them and trying to understand what it's like to live a day in that city.
What was the moment you realised that you wanted to 'go international' or that you had 'gone international'?
I studied abroad my last year of college for the FIRST TIME ever, and was hooked. Language, love, culture, and women's rights all rolled into one moment the second I stepped down in Buenos Aires, Argentina in January 2011.
Your life, have you planned it this way or has it just happened that you live abroad / travel extensively?
I NEVER expected to live abroad. After Argentina, I went back to California and worked in event planning and marketing. When an advisor mentioned Korea, I thought she was INSANE. Little did I know, I would be in Korea less than six months later.
How do your friends and family see / think of you?
They think my life abroad is temporary. They don't really know what goes on or what my day to day life is like in Shanghai. They ask silly questions but I am the only one out of my friends and family to have lived abroad so it's understandable. They think I will eventually come back 'home'. When in reality, wherever I live is my home.
I rarely feel lonely though and I think my friends and family are finally starting to realize the satisfaction I feel living abroad. They see my involvement with GGI and everything else in Shanghai and they know this is the best life for me.
Anne also says that living life as a Girl Gone International is like a crash course in life. That we learn more in 5 years than most do in 50. Do you agree?
HELL YES! I have matured tenfold in the time abroad. I used to be a selfish, manipulative, terrible child. I don't know how my mom dealt with me. I learned to love and respect other people and myself the moment I started living abroad and as a single woman. There are things you learn living alone, and abroad that you wouldn't get living in the same bubble for your entire life. You start to talk to everyone and respect people's differences instead of just judging people which is a serious issue in a lot of communities in the West.
Knowing what you know now, about this lifestyle, about the world and yourself, what would you go back and tell your younger self?
Listen to your mother.
Girl Gone International is geared towards empowering women. Do you have any wisdom or advice or words to share to this end?
Listen to your elders, respect them. Pay it forward. Constantly connect and empower other women because you're nothing without your tribe. We all need to help one another to grow and mature.