The Black Expat: ‘I Felt Unsettled And Needed A Major Change’
By DeAnna Taylor
For Tennessee native Marvis Kilgore, moving abroad was something that was necessary after feeling undervalued at his job in America.
Over 7 years ago, he packed up his life as an adjunct ESL teacher and headed to Doha, Qatar. We had the chance to speak with him to learn what inspired his move and how life has improved since moving to the Middle East.
Travel Noire: What initially inspired you to move abroad?
Marvis: Just before I moved abroad, I was very unhappy with life in the US. I’d just experienced a career change from being a bilingual math and science teacher for middle schoolers to an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor in Houston, TX. This career change resulted in a substantial reduction in salary even though I taught both ESL and Spanish at three institutions simultaneously.
As an adjunct, I did the work of a full-time instructor, but my salary didn’t reflect that. I felt that I should be more financially stable having worked over 50-60 hours a week. As a result, I felt unsettled and I knew that I needed a major change.
TN: Why did you choose Qatar?
Marvis: I ran into a former colleague who was visiting from Qatar. I listened to her very closely as she spoke of her experiences. What she described to me sounded like a “Land of Milk and Honey.” She spoke of living in a two-bedroom apartment with a maids quarter and having a driver that took her to and from work. She also spoke about not having any major living expenses because her employer took care of them. I was determined to find out more about this opportunity, so I read as much information as I could about Qatar and spent lots of time with my students who were from the region. After some research, I felt that Qatar would be a good fit.
TN: Describe life as a Black American man in Qatar?
Marvis: Living in Qatar as a Black American man was strange at first. I’d never lived in a place where I benefited from American privilege. Living here, you can clearly see how being American benefits you. Your salary is higher than your non-Western colleagues. Your housing accommodations are usually better and the majority of the people you meet are in awe that you are both Black and American.
When meeting a person they usually ask, “Where are you really from?” This question threw me for a loop in the beginning, but I really had to step back and see the situation for what it was — a learning experience. I would give the person a brief history lesson about America’s transatlantic slave trade. Many of the people that I encountered really didn’t know much about it with the exception of what they’d seen in American movies. Our conversations would usually lead to other conversations about American culture and I often found myself being the unofficial spokesperson for Black Americans. It was cool though. All-in-all, I have a pretty good life in Qatar.
TN: How has your quality of life improved?
Marvis: My quality of life has improved tremendously because you don’t really get caught up in the grind. In the US, in many instances, your career comes first. However, in Qatar, religion is first. Your family is next and everything else follows. I had a lot of free time to travel and really work on myself emotionally and spiritually. I was able to strike a much-needed balance. As an ESL instructor, I have tons of vacation time. We get 10 days off work almost every other month in addition to 45-50 days of summer break.
The generous amount of holiday time encouraged to me pursue my passion for traveling. Having traveled to approximately 45 countries, several people would ask me traveled related questions. I was having a conversation with a friend one day and I came to the realization that I should start a travel company, The Brofessor. I’ve been in business three years now and I’ve even come to the point where I’m solely working for myself. That transition would have been more difficult hadn’t I lived in Qatar for the past seven years.
TN: Any advice for others wanting to move abroad?
Marvis: I encourage people to step out in faith and try living abroad. I always tell people that if they don’t like it then they can go back home. To date, my advice has encouraged 10 people to move abroad. It really makes me happy when I get one of those “ Because of your calls or emails”. I feel that it’s very important to have an international experience an expat. You grow as a person and representation abroad matters. I feel that if more African Americans moved abroad then the misconceptions about us would change. It’s harder to misjudge someone if you really know them.
TN: Where can we find you online?
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.