The Black Expat: ‘The Loss Of My Mother, Father, And Sister Led Me To Move Abroad’
By DeAnna Taylor
South Carolina native Danielle Kirkland spent over 15 years teaching in schools across Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. After losing several immediate family members, she made the decision to pack up her and her 12-year old son’s lives and start over half way across the world.
She is now teaching in Ras al Khaimah, just one hour outside of Dubai and so far she doesn’t regret the move. We had the opportunity to speak with Danielle to learn more about her reason for moving and how she and her son have adjusted to their new home.
Travel Noire: What led you to pack up and move to the United Arab Emirates?
Danielle: My decision to move to the UAE came about after experiencing a great amount of loss and realizing how important it is to “carpe diem.” From 2008 – 2019, my father, sister and mother all died, and I was left with a great amount of sadness and depression. Although I love teaching, I wanted to experience more so I first researched teaching abroad in 2015. However, my mother asked me to wait and I agreed to stay with her as we were having a difficult time after the loss of my sister. In February 2019, my mother transitioned, and I was broken again but also realized it was time to make a change. In 2 short months, I interviewed with 3 schools, received offers and made a decision to leave my comfort zone.
TN: In your short time abroad, do you find that the move has been worth it?
Danielle: Absolutely! The transition was smooth and the experience has been breathtaking. From arriving to DXB (airport) to getting settled in my new home, I have not regretted the decision. I felt that I moved at the right time and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
TN: How has your son adjusted to his new life?
Danielle: I discussed the move with my son after interviewing in March and he was very encouraging. He wanted to move and helped me when I almost decided to back out in May. He has met new friends and enjoys learning Arabic, trying new foods and traveling the world. He also has an incredible amount of freedom that I was unwilling to allow him in America since there is very little crime and drugs in the country. He has befriended several other expats with friends from England, London, and Canada.
TN: Has this move helped you in your healing process?
Danielle: This move has helped me both mentally and emotionally. I still get to do what I love and have a great life after work that includes fun and travel. I am focused on the things that are within my control and my new environment is conducive for making new memories. The UAE is a beautiful country and I have access to most of the things I am accustomed to from America.
As a teacher in the UAE, the profession is respected and appreciated throughout, allowing for a better standard of living. I can now focus on my son, my health and living life. Whether I decide to travel to the nearby countries, visit one of the other emirates, or spend a weekend at the beach, I am happier now than I have been in a very long time.
TN:What is the Black community like? Are you all close?
Danielle: The black community has been great. My school provides accommodations which allowed me to meet American coworkers before school started. From my first night of arrival my neighbors from Texas assisted with everything from getting necessities to being invited to brunches and happy hours after work. Many of my new friends have lived here for 4 or more years and willingly share their knowledge with me; this has been more beneficial that any of the research that I have done on my own. There are more than 20 African American teachers at my school, hundreds throughout the emirate, as well as a strong network of my Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters through the UAE.
TN: Do you see yourself moving back to the States?
Danielle: I plan to come back to America so my son can finish high school. However, I could definitely see myself living abroad for many years.
TN: What advice can you offer other parents wanting to move abroad with their children?
Danielle: There is a great amount of research and planning required before making the decision to move abroad with a child. It is an expensive venture that requires research related to schools for expatriates. There are pros and cons that come with living abroad. The greatest pro has been the liberation of raising my preteen in the UAE without the burden of school shootings and crime.
TN: Where can we find you online?
Danielle: I’m on Instagram at @life.of.danie.
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.