Living Abroad On Three Continents

by Roni

Living abroad on different continents isn’t impossible, and here to show you how fabulous it can be is Wandi, The Travel Ninja of the week. She’s a dynamic international traveler of color (who has a chance to go to Cuba! Find out how here) with a zeal for living her best life. She is so interesting!

You had a good job yet you left it and moved to Europe. Why?

My airport job had run its course.  It was an amazing experience to support the preparations for 1996 Olympics at what was already the world’s busiest airport.

What tops that?

The Olympics exposed me to an intercultural dynamic I had not previously known , but fell in love with immediately.  I found the break-neck pace of preparing the city to receive the world…addictive.

 

womens gymnastics Beijing

Celebrating Shawn Johnson’s gymnastics GOLD at the Beijing summer Olympics with colleague.

After completing a project that had consumed six years of my life, I didn’t know what to do afterwards that would give me that sense of urgency and accomplishment.  I couldn’t even remember what I was doing before the Games bid was won.  To feed that craving, I chose to chase the Games to the next summer Olympics city, which happened to be Sydney.  I chose to arrive there via England and France.

SportAccord conference in Beijing

Taking a break at exclusive SportAccord conference with owner of Carlton Tours

How many countries have you lived in and how long did you live in each?

 

I immersed myself in the culture and history of England and France for roughly a school year; cultivated a tiny art import business while living part-time in Ecuador for nearly three years; taught at universities and managed sporting event hospitality in China for about six years; and served on the organising the Doha Asian Games in Qatar for seven amazing months.

Doha Skipper

Sailing the Arabian Gulf (Doha)

camel racess2

Camel races!! Arrival to races was delayed by the Presidential motorcade, so the Emir allowed my posse executive access and we sat in HIS box seats practically within arms reach! (Doha)

 

Taliban store

The Taliban Store. Steps away from my flat in Doha.

 

You have worked for some amazing organizations/companies in several different countries. Who have you worked for and what were your job descriptions?

 

London was easy.  It was on the way to Paris and I had a cousin already living there.  Paris because of the magical allure of the Latin culture, cuisine and exquisite red wines!  I connected with an amazing community of performing and visual artists there.

I visited Quito on a trade mission and founded a wonderful little art business that kept me returning there every other month.

Yang En University, near Quanzhou (Fujian province, China) recruited me to teach business management. It was at the tail-end of the SARS epidemic and the beginning of the US economic meltdown.   I was determined to start learning Mandarin immediately, to become a complete professional in time for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Shaun Julie Sheila at USA House in Beijing

Kicking with the NBC crew (Shaun Robinson and Julie Jones) and America’s Top Designer (Sheila Bridges) at the US Olympic House (Beijing)

Teaching at universities is an EXCELLENT way to immerse oneself in the cutting-edge of all cultural happenings.

I finally had my Aussie experience when I taught at the Sydney Institute of Language and Commerce at Shanghai University.  A serendipitous call from a Qatari recruiter landed me in a Contingency Planning position at the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee.  I had never HEARD of Doha before, but I knew that the Games role was an incredible opportunity on my path to the Beijing Games.

PCI Dinner in Doha

My project management team at the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee

 

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab (Dubai)

Madinat Al Jumeira w Marco

Madinat Al Jumeirah with best friend (an Italian living in Switzerland that I met on Tibet!) (Dubai)

DAGOC meets GAGOG2

Guangzhou Asian Games Committee meets with Doha Asian Games Committee (Doha)

 

Wandi's Birthday cake with Eman and Dana

Birthday celebration with colleagues (Doha)

After Doha, I returned to Shanghai and served hospitality management roles with the Formula One Races, the Master’s Cup Tennis Tournament and the Special Olympic World Summer Games, building credibility in China as a Games organizer.

How do you manage to get such interesting positions? What is your educational background? 

 

Aggressive networking.  Meeting as many people as I could and expressing to them my commitment to my ambition. My degrees are in aeronautical administration and aviation management from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation & Technology.

Teaching airport opns in Beijing

My students and I after class. (Beijing)

 

How do you compare living and working in America to your experiences of living and working in different countries? 

 

I have found that people everywhere are striving for a better life for their children.  In most places I’ve been, education is much more coveted than in the United States. Regarding working, I LOVED working a 35 hour week in Doha that was considered full-time.  Qataris made the workplace extremely comfortable for employees with all sorts of amenities, such as “Tea Boys” that would deliver coffee, tea and snacks to your desk at any time throughout the workday.

All the fast-food places delivered and people were generally autonomous in their work.  The facilities were quite opulent as well.  Cultural orientations could have been handled better at ALL my gigs.  I’d like to support organization that are on-board expatriates, by providing them with more comprehensive guidance for navigating the new culture AND preparing the local employees to better understand their expatriate guests.

 

Burj al Arab Valets

The concierge at Burj Al Arab. I overslept and missed brunch but stayed for tea. (Dubai)

 

MastersCup

My “House” during the Shanghai Master’s Cup Tennis Tournament

How has your perspective changed since working abroad?

My perspective on work and relationships has changed dramatically.  Career remains important to me, but MORE important is the quality of the relationships we build around us.  That’s with family, friends, colleagues….everyone. I found there was more TIME devoted to cultivating relationships when I lived abroad.  I miss that.  Dinners typically would go on for hours as friends and family gathered and REALLY connected with each other over lovingly prepared food.

 I once had a Greek flat-mate wonder aloud why I was eating alone at the kitchen sink.  She found this very American habit extremely strange.  It made me laugh.  Now I make it a point to sit down and enjoy my meals rather than slam them down my throat. Work is a means to support a lifestyle.  It shouldn’t engulf one’s entire life.  Balance is something I’ve found sorely lacking in the United States.

MastersCupcredentials

Your current projects are to return to Brazil to work the Rio Games and the other to visit space. Please explain your role in the games and what your plans are for visiting space. 

I am campaigning for a role at Rio’s Olympics.  I started studying Portuguese last year in preparation.  Additionally, I’ve earned a certificate as a Cultural Detective and graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School.  I network as much as I can Stateside.  Last year, I took a short reconnaissance trip to Brazil.  I am keeping my eyes and ears open for an opportunity that will soon come.

 

spacebound2

Suited up for space!

 

STS-133

Kennedy Space Center (KSC) space shuttle mission 133 poster! (Cape Canaveral)

Space travel is an adventure I’m pursuing as a result of befriending the son of an astronaut in Shanghai.  Our friendship led me to witness two space shuttle launches, meet Dr. Mae Jemison the first African-American woman in space, and Nichelle “Lt Uhura” Nichols from Star Trek and an amazing array of spectacular NASA opportunities and interests I’d never previously considered.

 

Dr. Mae Jemison

Touring the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center with the first African-American female astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison.(Cape Canaveral)

space bound1

The RIGHT STUFF!

Astronaut Ed Lu & his son Alex

Kicking it with Alex and his dad, astronaut Ed Lu, asteroid hunter. (Cape Canaveral)

Shanghai brother and me at KSC

Enjoying a moment outside the KSC visitor’s center with my fabulous NASA host. (Cape Canaveral)

One of the many things I’ve learned is that a phenomenon occurs to astronauts as they observe our planet from space.  They observe earth as one organism rather than many nations and it causes a shift in their consciousness.  They return with a heightened realization that we’re all in this together.  They’ve named this phenomenon the Orbital Perspective or The Overview Effect.

 

Standing next to Shuttle Endeavours landing gear

Enthralled to be standing beneath Space Shuttle Endeavour inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (that’s the nose gear I’m leaning on) (Cape Canaveral)

 

I want to expose more of the underserved and underrepresented to the possibilities of space travel, the importance of developing oneself continuously, tolerance and intercultural collaboration.I want to encourage a consciousness about the significance of climate change and impending environmental disaster, if we continue to neglect the health of our planet.

How does your family feel about the way you are living your life? 

 

On Christmas day, an astronaut friend called with season’s greetings while I was at a family dinner.  She graciously chatted with each of my tweenaged cousins, encouraging them to live their dreams.

Later, I overheard a 10 year old ask a 13 year old how I knew an astronaut.  Without looking up from her texting on her cellie,the 13 year old replied, “She’s a hippie!”

 

Kenny G & me at Special Olympics after party

Shanghai Special Olympics after-party with Kenny G.

 

Legendary Loretta Claiborne & me

Checking schedule with the Legendary Loretta Claiborne (http://www.lorettaclaiborne.com/) at Shanghai Special Olympics.

Tim Shriver Special Olympics Shanghai

Taking a break with Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. (SUPER guy) (Shanghai)

Masters Cup Chefs

Chef’s team at the Shanghai Master’s Cup Tennis Tournament.

 

 

If you could give someone advice that wants to work outside of their country, what would you tell them? 

Plan, plan, plan!

Prepare!

Network before you go!
Learn the language and culture of your host country and spend some time learning the stages of culture shock so you’ll have some understanding of the feelings that you’ll inevitably experience.

Transitioning to the rhythm of the host nation is much faster (albeit challenging) when living amongst the locals, but know where to the expats are.

 

Lantern lighting ceremony at the Ritz Shanghai

Lantern lighting ceremony at Ritz Carlton (Shanghai)

 

Chillaxing at Special Olympics w colleagues

Chillaxing with Chinese and Brazilian colleagues at Shanghai Special Olympics

 Have you worked abroad? Isn’t Wandi fascinating?

http://delnsb.com/staff-member/wandi-steward/

You may also like

Leave a Comment

31 comments

Chanel January 6, 2015 - 10:48 am

WOW! What a great interview and I would love to go work overseas again. What an amazing story! Go Wandi! 😀

Reply
Wandi January 8, 2015 - 11:59 pm

Thank you for the kind words, Chanel!
Roni made the interview fun. She’s a class act!
Thank you, Roni!!

Reply
T. Michelle January 9, 2015 - 12:31 pm

Wow, what a fascinating life story! I’m in the planning stages, with a goal to work abroad for the first time, so I love to read how others have done it.

Reply
Wandi January 16, 2015 - 8:33 am

Best of luck to you, T. Michelle.
You’ll not regret it!!

Reply
Erick January 9, 2015 - 2:29 pm

I’m just gonna say it. That shot with Kenny G made this epic for me. lol

Reply
Wandi January 13, 2015 - 5:59 pm

LOL!!

Reply
kasie January 9, 2015 - 4:23 pm

this was a great piece! It is one of the things that continues to motivate me as I plan my journeys around the world and potential expat life!

Reply
Wandi January 16, 2015 - 8:35 am

Go for it, Kasie!!

The only cure for wanderlust is EXPLORATION!!

Reply
Bob January 10, 2015 - 7:31 am

Good for you, glad you had the nerve to do it. Been living in Central America for the last 12 years and love it.
Good Luck…

Reply
Wandi July 7, 2015 - 12:15 pm

Gracias, Bob!
Where in CA are you?
What inspired you to go there?
What keeps you?

Reply
Kemkem January 10, 2015 - 9:13 am

Holy smokes! I was dizzy just from reading her story 🙂 . What an awe inspiring woman. Good for you, and continued success.

Reply
Wandi January 16, 2015 - 8:37 am

Thank you, KemKem!!

Reply
Al January 10, 2015 - 8:49 pm

Great write-up! A real renaissance women, you are; a personification of Satchel Page’s comment “Don’t look back, they may be gaining on ya.” You are an inspiration for those, especially young Black girls, with aspirations of greatness.

Reply
Wandi January 13, 2015 - 6:01 pm

Thank you, Al! That’s really sweet of you to say!

Reply
hypestyles January 13, 2015 - 2:40 pm

Major kudos to Wandi– truly a fascinating career and an inspiring array of international experiences! Best of fortunes on your next adventures! 🙂

Reply
Wandi January 15, 2015 - 11:47 am

Thank you, Hype!
I appreciate your marvelous remarks!!!

Thank you!

Magic

Reply
Walter Davis January 13, 2015 - 3:01 pm

Wandi, I am and continue to be proud of you! You continually remind me life is for living. This is a great interview.

Reply
Wandi January 15, 2015 - 11:52 am

Thank you, Homie!

We inspire each other!!

LIVE!!!

Wandi

Reply
Wandi January 13, 2015 - 6:03 pm

Thank you everyone for the kind words!
The journey has been FULL!

Someday we’ll gather ’round and trade adventure stories!!

Wandi

Reply
Nadeen January 14, 2015 - 12:35 am

She has accomplished so much in so many countries! She is the role model for what networking is all about! Being part of so many Olympics and being able to experience all those different cultures Ian’s learn the languages is amazing! Good luck with Rio! And I like the Orbital perspective. If only we could all view the World and each other that way!

Reply
Wandi January 15, 2015 - 11:54 am

Thank you, Nadeen!!

Reply
Florida E. Starks January 14, 2015 - 11:53 am

An amazingly well written article for a well-traveled and insightful woman. Thanks for sharing your profound experience!

How fantastic are your journeys 🙂 Keep learning, growing and providing a view of the world through your lenses with each of us.

Glad to know you!
fes

Reply
Wandi January 15, 2015 - 11:56 am

Thank you, FloStarr!!

Yours is an energy a aspire to emulate. Thank you for your kind words!!

Reply
Dawud January 14, 2015 - 1:03 pm

Amazing journey Wandi! It is so inspiring to know that you have accomplished all of these things so early in life! I am proud of your achievements and know that you will be sharing more insanely incredible stories very soon!

Reply
Wandi January 15, 2015 - 11:58 am

Thank you so much, talented and amazing Father of BrotherMan.

Let the mutual Fandom continue!!

Peace!!

Reply
Sondi Eugene January 14, 2015 - 11:22 pm

So inspiring! I can’t wait to read about your space travel…just a matter of time!

Reply
tcab January 15, 2015 - 11:15 pm

You continue to inspire all who come in contact with you. I am so fortunate to call you both friend and family. I remember when you told me you were leaving your US 9 to 5. You never faltered, instead you hit the ground running and never looked back. I know an opportunity in Brasil will reveal itself soon, and i am just waiting for your liftoff date so I can watch you rocket into space. Continue to live life to its fullest! Continue to be fearless! Continue to be “The Great Wandi”! XOXO

Reply
Wandi January 17, 2015 - 12:19 pm

Thank you so much for your on-going support along the way, TCAB.
We are fortunate to have each other.

Thank you!!

W

Reply
Wandi January 16, 2015 - 8:40 am

Thank you, Sondi!

You should join me on the space flight!
It’s going to be so epic!!

Reply
Jennifer January 21, 2015 - 2:13 pm

Wow. Wow. So impressive. I’ve traveled abroad to 3 continents but never considered living abroad. I love how Wandi is fearless and goes forward with her dreams. Thank you for truly enjoying every minute of LIFE. I wish more people could be this way!

Reply
Wandi January 22, 2015 - 2:36 pm

Thank you, Jennifer!

Reply