I’ll never forget receiving my roommate assignment the summer before my freshman year of college. Sitting on my family’s front porch in Berkeley, California, I tore open the envelope and there it was: Anna from Paris. I couldn’t believe my luck. Visions of spring breaks spent gallivanting around Europe filled my head. I had been to France once as a child and had fantasized about returning ever since.

Anna didn’t disappoint. Born in Italy, she had also lived in France and Miami before coming to New York for college. Because she had attended international schools, she knew people from all over the globe. At 18, her worldview seemed vast and sophisticated compared to mine. We quickly became friends and did in fact spend school breaks exploring Italy, France, and even California. She introduced me to The Little Prince, Place des Vosges, and the finest pesto in all of Genoa. I schooled her on the writer Joan Didion, Point Reyes National Seashore, and such only-in-the-Bay-Area words as “hella.”

After graduation, we both eventually left New York and from there our paths diverged. I returned to California; she continued a peripatetic existence. We’ve kept in touch as she’s gone from Washington, D.C., to Russia to Turkey, now with her children and husband, who works for the Foreign Service. She’s chosen to live the life of an expat. I think it’s a choice that we travelers have probably all contemplated at some point. In AFAR’s ultimate guide to expat life, we hope to inspire you with real stories of people living outside of the States, and to give you the practical information you need to do it yourself. And be sure to catch up with my old friend Anna,  who’s always finding her way home.

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