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The iconic Hong Kong skyline | Photo by Anneliese Murray
29 Oct 2020

Moving Abroad During a Global Pandemic

Chatteris’ own Anneliese Murray reflects on her decision to leave the UK to teach in Hong Kong during the summer of 2020.

If you had told me this time last year that I would be living in Hong Kong, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had told me that I would be doing so in the midst of the biggest global pandemic of modern times, I’d have laughed in your face. Yet here I am, doing both of those things, and realising the joy to be found in the unexpected. 

The iconic Hong Kong skyline | Photo by Jack Garnett

Flashback to April and the UK was in a lockdown akin to nothing any of us had experienced before. I was a struggling student, trying desperately to write my dissertation at the kitchen table and mourning the loss of the university library. I was also very conscious of the looming threat of unemployment, due to a job market already saturated with graduates being coupled with the wrecking ball that is Covid-19. It was in this environment that I received a message on Linkedin asking if I wanted to move to Hong Kong to teach English with an NGO, Chatteris. 

Initially I waved off the message as unrealistic. Although moving abroad had always been a plan of mine, it felt far in the future, and I actually knew very little about Hong Kong itself. Surely, I couldn’t make such a move during a global pandemic? I have never been the most spontaneous person, and this had definitely not been part of my plan. That said, over the next few days I couldn’t shake the idea of Hong Kong and ‘what if?’ from my mind. Eventually, I decided to apply to work with Chatteris, and as I went through the application process and learnt more about the work that they do, I became more heavily invested in getting the job and moving to Hong Kong.

A bustling Mong Kok street | Photo by Anneliese Murray
A bustling Mong Kok street | Photo by Anneliese Murray

Now fast forward a few months… Despite the fact that I truly did not believe I would be coming to Hong Kong until I stepped off the plane, against all the odds myself and fellow Chatteris Tutors are not only surviving, but thriving here in Hong Kong. Arriving at this point was not without challenge, though: first, we had to overcome the mandatory two-week quarantine period.

The prospect of quarantine scared me a lot, although it seemed a small price to pay for ten months of adventure. The reality was better than I anticipated: we were fortunate to complete quarantine in a very comfortable hotel and also undertook our Chatteris training over Zoom during the time. This kept me busy and I was surprised by how quickly the time passed; calls with friends and family helped a lot, too. The strangest part of this experience was meeting other tutors over Zoom before we got to meet in person. Thankfully, technology allowed us to get to know each other as well as we could before meeting for real, but one fairly obvious takeaway is that face to face meetings are irreplaceable, even in the digital age. That said, now that we are out of the quarantine and immersed in Hong Kong life, it all feels a distant memory.

Tung Lung Chau, an island just off the coast of Hong Kong | Photo by Anneliese Murray

Hong Kong amazes me every day with its unexpected pockets of beauty and unparalleled variety. It feels like a place I’ve been looking for all my life: a bustling city packed with culture, yet only ever a short journey from a stunning hike or relaxing day at the beach. Professionally speaking, beginning teaching so soon after arriving in Hong Kong and thus gaining a lot of responsibility overnight has been very rewarding. The move itself has shown me that I have gone through a lot of personal growth lately, as saying goodbye to home for 10 months during such unsettling circumstances certainly isn’t something that I could have done a couple of years ago. Reflecting on moving abroad during a global pandemic, I think it was a pretty great decision. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can pay off.

[Disclaimer – we are incredibly fortunate here in Hong Kong that our daily case numbers are low and the government have recently allowed schools, bars, and gyms to reopen, albeit with strict measures in place. I am very aware that the situation worldwide is very different and am grateful to be safe. I am thinking of the rest of the world often.]

Want to move to Hong Kong to teach with Chatteris like Anneliese? Apply now.

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