Samantha the globetrotting SAFFA

A decade of teaching abroad brings many rewards

Samantha with a group of her students in Korea.

Samantha Sampson who hails from Parow in Cape Town, South Africa has been abroad for the last ten years teaching English as a foreign language. Like many South Africans who have an adventurous spirit and a passion for travel and exploration, Samatha has had the most amazing experiences and was kind and wise enough to share some of her journey with us.

I believe that she, like many other women, is an inspiration to others who wish to explore the world, educate the world and in doing so educate and enrich themselves. There are so many amazing experiences and encounters that you will have when you leave the comfort of your home to embrace the unknown.

Samantha has many qualities of a woman inspired and a woman empowered. Those two attributes alone are enough to get anyone from any age group, social background, gender or profession the guts to go ahead and live and work abroad. The world around us is meant to be explored and experienced first hand!

Let’s get to know a little bit more about Miss Sampson’s decade long journey of teaching, living,loving and growing abroad.

skylarglowsup: Why did you decide to go abroad?

“I have always enjoyed travelling and was told by my grandma that I got my first tooth on the road. My mom was a nurse and had to go back to work after I was born, so I travelled with my gran quite often. My grandmother was from Albertinia in the Southern Cape. Growing up, we spent many holidays there. I particularly loved the outdoors and the natural beauty of the Southern Cape.I always tell people I’m born and raised in the city but I am a country girl at heart.

skylarglowsup: How long have you been abroad?

“I’ve been an expat for 10 years. Before going abroad, I worked for the department of health for 15 years and decided to change my career and went on to teach English abroad in South Korea. Thereafter I’ve been teaching in Saudi Arabia. Teaching abroad has been very rewarding as I find it also enables one to have cultural exchanges which would not be possible otherwise.”



What have been the pros?

” When one is immersed in a different culture it makes the experience so much richer. Living abroad has taught me that people are essentially all the same. We all have the same needs although we have different world views. Also as an ex-pat you meet people from all over the world of which some become lifelong friends. There is also a sense of community amongst ex-pats. “

skylarglowsup: What have been the cons?

“There are times when loneliness can set in when you haven’t seen your family for a long time. You miss out on special occasions and milestones of your family, like births and weddings and  special events. I also lost my grandma whilst being abroad and it was sad that I couldn’t make it home in time for her funeral, simply because in Saudi Arabia visa laws did not make it easy to just exit the country due to paperwork having to be processed by your sponsor ( the company who you work for is in charge of your visa process and responsible for you while you are working there).

Dreams have no deadlines. You can make them come true, whether you are young or old.

skylarglowsup:Tell us about your “dream come true” bucket list:

“I will have to say, skiing in Pyeongchang South Korea, where the Winter Olympics were held.
I’ve always wanted to experience snow and was fortunate to have been living in South Korea where we had the snow knee-deep whilst I was there.
I visited Mary, Mother of Jesus’s home in Ephesus, Turkey and what an unforgettable experience that was!

I also went hot air ballooning in Cappadocia during my second trip to Turkey. It’s quite a magical experience.
Where have I travelled to: My very first trip off the African continent was to Myanmar (Burma) I was part of an outreach program for orphans. It was a life-changing experience indeed. I’ve been to China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Ireland, Turkey, Zambia, Namibia, Algeria, Qatar.”

skylarglowsup: How did you manage culture shock, different customs and new languages?

“I have always been interested in learning about different cultures and I do believe that one has to respect other cultures and customs. When living in Korea I found the honorifics to be quite endearing because people wouldn’t ask you your age and would then address you accordingly and they would bow in greeting and the older you are the lower the bow, which showed respect.

Honorifics are incredibly important in Korean culture for proper conversation and forgetting to use them is seen as disrespectful. Whilst living in Saudi Arabia as an ex-pat when you first arrive it seems daunting. It’s a culture that segregates the genders. You wouldn’t have to go to a female section. For banking and restaurants, you would have family sections and single sections. Single sections were for unmarried males. Women were also required to wear an abaya to dress modestly, this has changed recently and women are now able to choose if they want to wear it or not. Women were also prohibited to drive until 2018, so one would have a driver to do special trips for you. I have learnt that in order to adapt to another’s culture one has to be open-minded and able to adapt easily and respect the culture and customs. “

skylarglowsup: Were you fortunate enough to meet people along the way who become lifelong friends?

“As an expat I’ve met people who have become lifelong friends. I’ve also met the love of my life while abroad. I also find expat life to be very transient, as you meet people either somewhere between the beginning, middle or end of their contracts. Recently, I had to say goodbye to a few dear friends whom I’ve known for 7 years.”

skylarglowsup: How do you manage to cultivate and keep those bonds alive?

” I try at most to stay in touch with people via email, Facebook, Video Call and all the other social media Apps. We are spread out all over the world so there is always the issue of different time zones, different seasons and sometimes we manage to reunite if we come home at the same time or if we travel to the same holiday destinations, it is also a great opportunity to keep our friendships intact. Many of the women that I worked with in Saudi always said we should have a 10-year reunion. I think it would be amazing since we had colleagues from every continent with varied nationalities and religious backgrounds and we worked well together. It was like being in a beautiful sisterhood. We trusted, valued, loved, admired and encouraged each other both professionally and personally. “

skylarglowsup: How has being a South African female abroad, broadened your horizons and how can you implement those experiences back home now?

“As a South African female abroad I have been able to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude for having had the opportunities which I was afforded, thanks to the upbringing my parents gave me. There is a saying; ”You don’t raise your child for yourself but for the world.”

Working alongside other teachers from other countries has also been an enriching part of my journey as an educator. I can say I will definitely encourage other young people to explore ex-pat life and make a lasting impact in the industry that you work in. Sharpen those skill sets and doors you couldn’t imagine may open.”

It sounds like Samantha has many tales to tell, memories to immortalise and ample personal and professional milestones to be proud of ! And she did it with her own funding, her own hard work and her own vision to live life as she wished to and still be here today to inspire the rest of us. So if she could do it, so can you! Even though the whole world is still in pandemic mode, take a page out of Samantha’s journey and make things happen for yourself.

You can still reach your goals, you can still accomplish great things and make a positive impact in someone else’s life. Keep glowing everyone.

With love and empowering light

From Skylar


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