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Taking gap year(s) in the US

Updated: Feb 27

Arriving in the US on a K-1 visa, I'm not expected to work until my EAD (Employment Authorization Document) is issued, which might take more than a year in certain situations. And in my case, it's been a 9-month waiting game since I submitted my Adjustment of Status. One of the things I get asked frequently by many of my friends and relatives is "How is it like being home all the time?".

Even though I'm an optimistic person who enjoys just being at home and is always thinking of ways to inspire herself, the transition from full-time working to full-time living at home drove me insane during my first six months in the States. I had some down times when I criticized my decisions and isolate myself from others as I thought no one could relate. Yet the sun always shines after the rain. I then decided to change my perspective and chose to use this period of waiting as a GAP YEAR!

To help you understand my situation better, let me briefly relate my life before and after my fateful flight to the United States.

My life back then in HCMC, Vietnam

I lived alone in a 25m2 apartment in HCMC with Frodo, my lovely ginger cat. I enjoyed my single life then so much. I had a full-time job in E-commerce. Sometimes I worked remotely from home, and sometimes on-site. As a typical home lover, my list of activities would sound boring. Apart from work, I spent 70% of my time at home (eating, resting, watching movies, taking care of my cat and doing nothing) and the other 30% going out for groceries or meeting friends.

Hanging out with friends for milk tea or walking in the malls was fun. And sitting in my chair looking out the window and ordering take-away home made me happy too. My ideal night was simple, eating Kimchi soup with a cup of coke, while watching K-drama. Sunday is usually my spa day (and for the cat too!). I could either go to a spa for a massage or do all steps of skin care at home. I think we can only be happily married once we are happy being on our own, comfortable in our own skin.

Although I did not enjoy going to the supermarket to shop for groceries at all, I liked wandering in the convenience stores for some random stuff that I had not intended to buy, such as coke or instant food.

Travel was my favorite kind of "sports" haha! The number of times I traveled in a year went down from 5 in 2019 to 3 in 2021 on average due to Covid-19. I used to team up with one of my close friends to plan for trips to the beach or to the mountain in the beginning of each year.

Some weekends, my sisters came to stay with me and some other weekends, my mom came to pick me up for a drive to Long An, my hometown.

Overall, I did not have a fancy life with a big circle of friends and lots of parties, but I was happy.

My life now in Texas, USA

My life has taken a complete 180-degree swing following the significant move, and it's not simply because we are married people now. Since we moved in together, my husband and I have been more careful with our lives. We, as a team, standardized our tasks into files, folders and forms. One example I could think of is one of the most important tasks we have in our lives: feeding ourselves. What I'm about to describe is the process of grocery shopping, meal preparation, and cooking. I plan the grocery list carefully in advance in a shared checklist in Notion app, following which, Will takes care of the shopping. After Will gets all the food home, I wash, divide it into portions, and store them in the freezer. By doing so, I did myself a great favor by saving time when it comes to cooking. We mostly eat homemade food at home to stay healthy and to save money. I have been much better at cooking. It's always preferable to have someone enjoy the dish you cooked and give you credit for it.

We may watch movies at home or go to the draft house theater to entertain ourselves, dine out occasionally, meet our friends and their kids in Houston when they have some spare time, or even drive to some beautiful wilderness.

I don't hang out at malls, and window shop much as I did. Instead, I frequently walk the dog on a trail near our house. Lakeway is a lovely city in the suburbs. It's such a privilege to be here with the family.

I think by asking about my staying-home life, what people really want to know is how I deal with being passive and dependent when I have no driver license or work permit, which are the most important documents for identifying who I am, especially in a completely new country. I'd be lying if I said it never worried me. I would really love to get all of the paperwork verifying my presence in the United States. But we knew from the beginning of our reunion journey that what was ahead would not be easy. Given the pandemic context, we accomplished what seemed impossible: being together. So I tell myself to focus on the positive things in life, as tomorrow is still a mystery.

I might not be able to work, but I can always investigate in myself by acquiring new skillsets, such as cooking, baking, crocheting, video editing, and so on. I had no idea I could make such wonderful cookies or crochet such adorable tops, both of which I was always told I was horrible at. That has greatly boosted my self-esteem.

I couldn't drive anywhere, but Will can help, which is excellent for our connection. The first year of living together is critical. We try our best to support the other. Also, driving rules differ greatly from those in Vietnam; by seeing how others handle their cars on the road, I ultimately learned the skill by heart.

It's my story. I know the experience being abroad is different for everyone. And not everyone has the luxury of gap years. But if you ever have a longer break than expected as mine, you could absolutely take a look at my blog(s) for preference. Getting questioned by people on a topic you don't want to discuss might be difficult at times. My husband told me something that I believe is correct: my friends ask because they care about me. Let's think from that standpoint. That would save up storage space in your brain from overthinking thoughts.


Thanks so much for reading my blog. I tried my best to bring the good vibes to myself and to everyone. Let me know in the comment section your experience being abroad! Have a nice day.


Fun facts:

  1. After six months in the United States, one of my friends moved to Georgia from HCMC with her husband. What a wonderful coincidence! It's so great to have someone to whom I can relate personally.

  2. People believe that if I lived in the United States, my English would improve. My speaking, on the other hand, has become somewhat funny as a result of using too many Vietnamese phrases in each sentence. Will's Vietnamese is fairly decent, which is why he can grasp such bilingual speaking way so well, leading to the fact that I was encouraged to speak it even more.


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