Jay Malone: Studying (and staying) abroad

December 24, 2014 |

Jay Malone decided to get his Master’s degree in Germany instead of at home in the US, and it led to a whole new business and lifestyle. He now splits his time between the two countries and helps others study abroad in Germany.

Most Memorable Location-Independent Experiences
A few years back, I traveled to Central Asia by myself to meet a friend in Kyrgyzstan. I’d always wanted to visit the capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty, so I decided to fly there and then cross the border to nearby Bishkek, where I would meet my friend.

Almaty was a lot of fun, and after a few days, I boarded the bus for Bishkek, sleeping my way through the drive until the creaking of the brakes woke me up.

When I opened my eyes, I saw that everyone else had already rushed off the bus with their luggage and was jostling for position at the gate to the border. I was still a little groggy when the bell rang and the mass of humanity surged forward at once; I had just enough time to grab my stuff and try to follow. Fortunately, citizens from outside of the two border countries were led to a separate line, which was, of course, much less crowded, meaning that I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get through to the other side.

When I got there, though, I realized I’d made a big mistake. The bus I’d taken only went to the border, and Bishkek was still another hour’s drive away. I stuck my finger up, and an old Soviet-era Lada pulled up, out of which poured a lengthy mixture of Russian and what I assume was Kyrgyz.

My Russian is terrible, but I figured the guy must have offered me a ride, so I opened the door and got in. I shook the driver’s hand, and he asked where I was from. I said Chicago, to which he responded with a quizzical look, after which he started laughing maniacally. “Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls!” he said. “You Al Capone, you Al Capone!” Having lived in Kazakhstan previously, I wasn’t too surprised by this response, but then he asked if I spoke Russian. Yes, I said, but only a little. Kyrgyz. No, but I speak some Kazakh. English? Yes, of course.

“London is capital of Great Britain,” he said with a smile. Uh, yes, I answered. “Dublin is capital of Ireland.” For the next hour, I learned more about the (often spurious) geography of the Anglophone world (“New York is capital of USA”).

When we arrived, I was glad to move on, but I’d only told him Bishkek as my destination, because I couldn’t reach my friend on his cell. Fortunately, I had another friend, a local writer, who did answer my call and was able to guide the driver to his home. When we pulled up, I offered him a handful of cash, but the driver just smiled and shook his head. “You gangster, Al Capone!”

Biggest Surprise along the Way
No matter where I’ve been, people have always been incredibly helpful and have gone out of their way to make my life easier. There have been countless times when I could have been seriously injured or worse, but thanks to the actions of a stranger, I was saved (and ended up with a great story to boot).

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In this episode

  • Living and studying in Germany without knowing German
  • Which European countries allow foreigners to access higher education for free
  • Why doing a full degree program abroad is more valuable than just a semester
  • How studying abroad is a good first step to living abroad or becoming a nomad
  • Splitting time between different places
  • Taking other people into consideration when designing your lifestyle
  • Is it selfish to live this lifestyle?
  • How living and traveling abroad expands the horizons of those around you
  • And much more
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Resources we talked about

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