Sabrina Zirakzadeh

I’m Sabrina, a first-generation (Guatemala and Iran) US citizen originally from Colorado currently living in Osaka, Japan. I grew up traveling to see family around the world and first became an expat at 22 in 2009 while getting my master’s degree in Popular Music Studies over two years in Glasgow, Scotland, where I met my future wife. Due to the difficulty of us being together on the same continent once my student visa finished (as this was before same-sex marriage equality passed in both the UK and the US), we decided to try finding work abroad together, and in 2012 I moved to rural Okayama prefecture in Japan as part of the JET Programme, with my wife joining me 6 months later. After my time on JET was finished, we moved to Osaka to pursue more relevant careers to our interests, and this summer will be my 9th year in Japan and 12th year living as an expat!
Being a “non-American-looking” American in the UK and Japan has presented me with some unique challenges, and being in a same-sex, binational marriage in a country that does not recognize it, as well as developing a rare and intractable dangerous illness since arriving has given me some experiences that I would honestly prefer not to have had. However, living in the UK and Japan has also given me the ability to pursue my dreams in ways I might not have had in the USA. In Japan, I’m using my skills as a musician to teach music for immersion school programs in Osaka while also performing for events, doing voice-over work at Universal Studios Japan and for textbook and transportation companies, and even working on independent films and other productions. It’s been exciting to go from university Japanese class-level to native-level Japanese, and joining a Japanese Spanish conversation group has been a wonderful way to meld parts of my culture with my new life here. 
My wife and I are currently preparing to leave Japan next summer, so we’re learning a lot about the repatriation/immigration process in the US and UK, as well as immigration proceedings in other countries where we aren’t citizens but qualify for spousal visas. Following in my family members’ footsteps and uprooting myself to live in places where I have minimal shared culture or language to immerse myself in something new has been an amazing experience and I’m not sure I’m ready for it to end, but after a year and a half enduring the pandemic in Japan, it’s time to move on. Still, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything, and I hope to maintain these connections no matter where we end up next!