Explore

The Black Expat: ‘I Set A Goal To Live Abroad For 15 Years’

By DeAnna Taylor

Share

Atlanta native Shaunda Johnson, aka Shaunda Jay, decided to move abroad just one month after graduating from college. That was in 2015.

She initially started out teaching English but has now ventured into running her online boutique and doing some freelance writing.

In just 4 years, she has experienced several highs and even some lows while navigating life in South Korea. We spoke with Shaunda to learn more about her journey and what initially led her to move.

Photo courtesy of Shaunda Jay

Travel Noire: What inspired you to move abroad?

Shaunda: My sister moved to South Korea in 2014 and invited me to visit when I graduated the following May. She kept telling me how unique it was and that I should experience it. My mom was supposed to come and help my sister with her new baby, but she passed away before my niece was born. I came in place of my mom to help my sister and I never left.

TN: How has life improved for you since moving abroad?

Shaunda: I have more financial freedom since I don’t have the expenses that I would in the States (I.e. Car, housing, etc.). I have learned how to survive in a foreign country and have become more knowledgable about the world. Most importantly, I gained self-development that have expanded my wisdom of life that I could only learn from living abroad. Plus the travel benefits of being in Asia didn’t hurt.

Photo courtesy of Shaunda Jay

TN: What obstacles or struggles have you faced since being in South Korea?

Shaunda: As a Black woman in Korea I am often identified as African, poor, or dirty because of the color of my skin. On the other hand, I am fetishized or seen as an exotic beauty. Either people want to be far away from me or too close for comfort. I have even had an elderly woman caress my leg on the subway because she was curious about my skin. 

Even though some Koreans are racist, I still feel safer living in Korea than I would be living in the States, because my life is not in danger for being black. I also get to properly educate my students and co-workers about Black Americans and our culture. 

Courtesy of Shaunda Jay

TN: Tell us about your recent health scare.

Shaunda: I was recently hospitalized for 5 days with fatal blood clots in my lungs. I am currently in Korea on a tourist visa visiting my family, so I do not have national health insurance or travel health insurance. The hospital initially refused to properly treat me until I paid them a ridiculous amount of money (10 million won which is about $10,000). Once I had a US citizen advocacy group remind the hospital that what they were doing was illegal, then I received treatment. But they tried to hold me hostage at the hospital until they received their money in full. I had to raise money from friends and family to get discharged from the hospital. My bill was over 7 million won (about $7,000). It was the worst week of 2019 for me.

Courtesy of Shaunda Jay

Related: The Black Expat: ‘ I Now Know What It Means To Live’

TN: How did you launch your business from South Korea?

Shaunda: I launched my blog in February 2018 after much research online. I was able to do all of the set-up online on my own. I also have a background in written, visual, and technological communication which helped me create my blog.

In September 2018, I launched my clothing line. I saw a need for pro-black apparel in Korea and decided to try my hand at it. I was able to purchase a wholesale order from a former college colleague and then I retailed the orders in Korea online. I first started selling items in-person and on Facebook. I never imagined that the line would take off the way it did. 

Courtesy of Shaunda Jay

TN: Do you see yourself moving back to the States?

Shaunda: I have wanted to live abroad since my junior year in college. I set a goal for me to live abroad for 15 years and so far I’m only 4 years in. As of now, I plan to finish my 11 years abroad and have many more countries that I want to live in. 

Courtesy of Shaunda Jay

TN: What advice do you have for other Black travelers wanting to move abroad?

Shaunda: My advice would be to go with the mindset that the universe is always working in your favor and to be flexible to have your entire world changed. Living abroad can be very challenging on an emotional, physical, and mental level. However, it can also be just as rewarding (even more rewarding) in those same areas if you can see that your grass is green no matter where you are.

TN: Where can we find you online?

Shaunda: I’m on IG: @shaundajay, FB: Shaunda Jay blog. I also have a website: https://shaundajay.com. For my clothing line check out: @Melaninpoppingear on IG.

Share
Travel Noire

DeAnna Taylor

DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.

Want more?

Get exclusive, unpublished tips from Travel Noire's CEO to help you get off the beaten path, into the hearts of locals and onto a better, more cultured life.

A Black Expat From New York Documents Life In Paris While The City Is On Lockdown

A Black Expat From New York Documents Life In Paris While The City Is On Lockdown

Tiffanie Davis moved from New York City to Paris back in 2017 to get her Master’s in Business Administration in International Luxury Brand Management from ESSEC Business School. The Massachusetts-native told Travel Noire, “I was craving an international experience and was excited about the opportunity to not only study but travel the world with my MBA program. […]

Parker Diakite

The Black Expat: ‘Brazil Lead Me To South Korea & I Embraced The Unknown’

The Black Expat: ‘Brazil Lead Me To South Korea & I Embraced The Unknown’

For St. Croix native and former Florida resident Mikyba Cooper, figuring out life post-college was still up in the air. After spending some time living and working in Brazil for an internship, she realized that she wanted to travel and create new experiences for herself. So, after doing some research on her own, she made […]

DeAnna Taylor

How A Trip To Accra Inspired Deijha To Trade Her 8 Year Career In NYC For A Food Truck Business In Ghana

How A Trip To Accra Inspired Deijha To Trade Her 8 Year Career In NYC For A Food Truck Business In Ghana

A trip to Accra with a childhood friend back in 2015 is what sparked Deijha’s interest to relocate to Ghana. “When I first stepped off the plane, I was just so amazed by the welcoming atmosphere and just the culture,” she said.  Four years later,  Deijha decided to take a leap of faith and traded […]

Parker Diakite