Living Abroad Interview Series: Amanda Rock

Over the past several months, I’ve shared a lot with you about my experience as an expat and trailing spouse, so I thought this week it would be fun to turn the mic over to four fabulous ladies who are also living the expat life.

From Thailand to Mexico, these intrepid women are navigating, surviving and thriving in new lands. So, today, let’s sit back and live vicariously through the life and times of Amanda Rock.

Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF.

  • Where are you from? Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA).
  • Where do you live currently? Hong Kong.
  • What do you do? Work, school, etc. Currently, I’m working remotely for two companies as part of their APAC teams. At the same time, I am completing my Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Social Sciences from Pennsylvania State University (WE ARE…!). It was hardly my “plan,” but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • What are your hobbies? I practice jiu-Jitsu out here, which has been a great way to make friends! I’m also found reading, hiking, traveling, cooking… or binge watching Netflix.
  • Where is your favourite place to travel/visit? My favorite place changes about as frequently as the weather. Right now, my favorite place to travel and visit has been my backyard here in Hong Kong! There are so many things to do for any type of mood that I’m in, so it’s pretty difficult to get bored. Otherwise, I’ll escape to another part of Asia for a quick getaway.

Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

Tell me about your living abroad experience(s).

I’ve lived abroad twice – both in Hong Kong. The first time I lived here, I came on a work assignment with my previous employer for 3.5 months. I lived on the main island and learned a lot about “navigating the world on my own.” Until I moved to Hong Kong, I never realized how sheltered I was. When I left the first time, I felt so many mixed emotions. It was great to go back to my home country, finish out university (at the time, I was studying at Loyola University Chicago going into my final year), see my friends and colleagues, and finally be on the same continent as my family. However, as soon as the plane lifted off the ground, that relief to be going home shifted to conducting a deep re-evaluation of my life.  I determined that I had to get myself back to Hong Kong, somehow and someway. This prompted me to change many aspects of my life, and determine how many sacrifices I would need to make to actually come back. 346 days later, I was boarding a plane to come back to Hong Kong for at least a year. I’ve been back for about three months now and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

What attracted you to the idea of living abroad?

When I was younger, I always dreamt of studying and eventually living in Switzerland. My mother would sit at my bedside and tell me stories about how perfect everything was there when she traveled there in her 20’s. This was the catalyst for me to find ways to someday live abroad.
In 2012, I entered university. I joined the International Learning Community, a group of students enthusiastic to learn about global affairs and travel the world. Within the first week or two, we were shown the endless opportunities to be able to study abroad. It was then that I knew I would make it happen sooner rather than later. I wanted to go to Switzerland during a fall semester and Australia during a spring semester.
Admittedly, I never made it to either of those places, but the allure of becoming whoever and whatever you wanted to be without restriction was so strong, I didn’t care where I ended up. I also loved knowing that going abroad meant that I could expand my mind and creativity in capacities I never dreamed of. The excitement has and continues to attract me to the idea of living abroad.

Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

Why did you decide on that city/country?

If you had asked me in December 2014 if I would live in Hong Kong, I would have probably laughed hysterically and told you to get your head checked.
Hong Kong was a decision inadvertently made for me. Due to restrictions within my degree program and financial burdens of paying for school, studying abroad was just not in the cards for me. My previous employer had overseas offices in London, Singapore and Hong Kong. I didn’t see much upward mobility within the role I was serving, so after careful consideration and research, I sat in my biweekly meeting with my supervisor and asked him if there was an opportunity to work in one of our global offices for a summer. He connected me with the right people who informed me the only office with the capacity to take on additional staff was Hong Kong. Five months later after many late night conversations and contract negotiations, I found myself on a plane from New York City to live out my “study abroad” experience.

What is the best part of living there?

Hands down, the best part of living in Hong Kong is the people I’ve come across. I had the privilege of living with individuals from five countries and becoming friends with others from 20+ countries. Interacting with local Hong Kongers has shown me a lot about the culture of the region and has given me the chance to pick up some Chinese language skills (both Cantonese and Mandarin). At the same time, the expatriate community here is so closely knit and friendly that I instantaneously found a second family. Certainly being from the US has given me the chance to meet people from around the world, but the pace of life here is much more intense, allowing me to forge relationships with everyone much quicker than what I’ve been used to.

Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

What is one thing you’d change?

I think I would have come more prepared the second time around in Hong Kong. When I agreed to come, I had a job offer that was rescinded a few weeks before my arrival. I scrambled to find another position and I was way in over my head. It was an unfulfilling role with poor management, and I quickly left the job. Until I found the positions I’m working in now, I spiralled rapidly into a depression. Normally I wouldn’t admit it, but I’m still pulling myself out of it because these two prior positions sucked a lot of confidence out of me. I’m grateful I saved a lot of money for my transition from the US to HK, but I wasn’t anticipating to have been worrying about pinching my pennies until I found a new job… twice.

Best food and where can we find it?

My favorite spot has to be Dim Sum Square in Sheung Wan. Order the xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumpling) and I promise you won’t regret it.

Also, I know this isn’t local cuisine… but I am obsessed with La Rotisserie also in Sheung Wan. It’s a French takeout restaurant but their roast chicken meals are divine. It’s my go-to for western food whenever I’m feeling homesick and want a proper Sunday dinner.

Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

What do you wish you’d known before you moved?

There are two things I wish I knew. I wish someone told me the importance of putting myself out there, no matter how scary it is. I’m a natural introvert and can be by myself for days on end without a problem. Interacting with others that I don’t know not only scares me but exhausts me. It took me about six weeks my first go-around to realize that the only way I was going to make friends outside of my roommates was to put myself out there. I took a leap of faith and created a profile on InterNations (an expat networking website), went to a proper MeetUp, and even replied to a post on the Hong Kong Expat Facebook page inviting people to come out with me and my roommates on a Friday night. When I look back, I feel like I wasted six weeks of chances and opportunities to meet even more eclectic and intriguing individuals.
The other thing I wish someone told me is that there is no “conventional” way of moving abroad. Everyone I’ve come encounter with has different stories to tell of how they found themselves living in a different country. Some moved for love – they didn’t care what they had to do; they just knew something was right and chased after it. Others took a traditional route of internal job transfers or just finding jobs before making the jump. There’s working holiday visa holders, investor visas, domestic and family visas… the list could go on and on.
And then there are people like me.
Coming the second time around after losing my contract, I took a leap of faith with nothing but a pipe dream and chased after a deafening call to escape the reality that I knew in front of me. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how comparing myself to these traditional or conventional routes was only hindering my growth potential, not helping it. I felt like people around me were judging my life choices, until it finally hit me that I was the one who was judging myself, not others. Sure, sometimes I’m convinced my family thinks I’m off my rocker for doing things the way I have to come to Hong Kong, but making the series of choices I have (changing universities to allow for location flexibility, leaving my role in Chicago, etc.) was my way of moving abroad, and there’s no benchmark of comparison in these types of situations.

Is there anything you miss from home?

There isn’t anything from home that I don’t miss on a daily basis. The Philadelphia skyline, the food, driving my car, the smell of burning leaves in the crisp autumn air… The things I miss the most though are the moments and memories I’m missing out on. My youngest cousin is in her senior year of high school, and I would give so much to just go home and watch one of her tennis matches. One of my best friends just got engaged to the love of her life, and I don’t want to miss out on sharing that excitement with her as she plans her wedding. That’s the sacrifice of packing up and moving away – I can’t expect the lives of my loved ones to be put on hold while I go and experience my life.

What is the one piece of advice you’d share with someone interested in moving/living abroad?

Be prepared for change, and to embrace both the good and the bad. Changes will occur not only in your life as you navigate a new place, but the change of life at home.
When I arrived back in the US the first time, I had more of a difficult time adjusting to the changes that happened amongst my family and friends than I did with the culture shock I experienced in Hong Kong. The days I spent trying to reject the changes happening in life are ones I can’t ever get back. It’s okay to have days where you’re homesick, get horribly annoyed by every single thing about the place you’re living, and to second guess your choices up until this point. However, if you can’t recognize that you need to accept the life you’re living, you’re only going to stagnate the growth and experience you were looking for by moving abroad in the first place.

Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

Final Thoughts.

Expat communities are your best friend wherever you move to. There are loads of people who are sharing this transition experience with you and that want to help you get through the good and bad times. They can tell you where to find certain products you can only get at home, how to stream your favorite television shows, and where to go for your favorite home foods. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them because they are some of the most receptive people I’ve ever met.

Lastly, if anyone is moving to Hong Kong or is looking to make a new friend here, please feel free to reach out to me! I’m always excited to meet new people and share new experiences.

A huge thank you to Amanda for sharing her experiences as an expat in Hong Kong. You can follow Amanda’s adventures at http://www.wordpress.com/traveleronfaith, or on FacebookInstagram and Snapchat (@amandalrock).

All photos courtesy of Amanda Rock.

Other Posts in This Series:


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Living Abroad Interview Series - Amanda Rock [PetiteAdventures.org]

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