Ian McIntosh is a Canadian second-year Music Production student. In 2016 he and his family moved to Turkey, and since then he’s been living abroad. This spring he started a podcast, The Expatriot, and is interviewing others that have been or are ex-pats. Here is his story and the inspiration for the podcast.
Tell us your story.
I am a Canadian citizen studying in Finland. In August of 2016, my family and I moved to Turkey and I have been living abroad ever since.
My story begins in Chelsea, Quebec, just outside of Ottawa, Canada. I grew up in a cottage close to the river, where I lived a pretty ideal life with my parents and sister. Swimming and sailing in the summer, skiing, and sledding in the winter. I started playing the cello when I was four years old, so music has always been a part of my life. My parents were teachers and we were comfortably middle class. We made the occasional road trip to the USA and one trip to Mexico when I was 6 but we never left North America.
While international teaching was an idea my parents circulated a lot over the years it wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that it was brought up as a real possibility. They called a family meeting to discuss it, saying it would give us the opportunity to see the world. I thought it was a cool idea. At the time I wasn’t loving life, you know, high school, and was ready for a change. I had no idea what I was getting into.
From there, things started moving quickly, my parents found a gig, we packed up our lives, got our house ready for sale, and planned the big move.
I don’t think it really hit me, how big a decision our family had just made. I was just sort of along for the ride. It was all so exciting. My sister struggled with it a lot more, and it was a tough time for her. She really didn’t want to say goodbye to her friends and life in Canada.
Apart from an attempted coup d’état in Turkey, the months leading up to our departure were relatively uneventful; the house was sold, our things were in storage, everything packed. Come August of 2016, we were ready to fly.
And suddenly, my new life began.
After two grueling years in the International Baccalaureate program, I graduated high school. The summer following graduation I traveled around Turkey with my cousin, a sort of victory lap.
I asked myself what to do next? I knew I wanted to study music production, but where?
There are plenty of universities in the United Kingdom, but just too expensive, I could move back home, to Canada, but that’s too far from my parents who were still working in Turkey. So where?
Finland, population 5.5 million, sandwiched in-between Russia, Sweden, and Norway. One of the happiest countries in the world, apparently.
I chose TAMK because I wanted to study in Europe. There aren’t that many universities that offer a music production education in English, at a reasonable cost, tuition here isn’t that bad, it is comparable to what I would be paying in Canada and way cheaper than anything I saw in the UK. So when I found TAMK I pretty much knew immediately that I wanted to study here.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your projects?
I try to base them off of my life experience. My mom always said you’ve gotta write about “what you know.” There’s got to be some truth to it for it to be impactful.
What is your creative process like?
It comes in waves, I usually bounce between several different projects at the same time. I work best when I’m busy.
How has the COVID-19 isolation affected you and your work?
The lack of structure was really difficult to adapt to. I went through a period of several weeks where I just couldn’t motivate myself to get any work done. But now I feel as though I’m back on track. I’ve got my podcast coming out now for the next 6 weeks so that will keep me busy for a while.
So you’re releasing a new project, The Expatriot, what is it?
The Expatriot is a podcast. It’s an exploration of life as an expatriate and what it means to live abroad. In this first season, I’m taking a look at the expatriate experience in Finland. I will be talking to a number of ex-pats who live here, getting to know their stories, and talking to them about how expatriation has changed their lives.
What led you to choose this topic?
I’ve undergone an immense amount of personal change since I moved abroad and I really wanted to create a space where I could talk about it with other ex-pats.
It’s been nearly four years since I left Canada, and the life I had doesn’t exist anymore, but I can’t shake that sense of unease. I think maybe it comes from feeling like I don’t belong where I am. But if that’s the case, where do I belong? Not Canada, I stopped belonging there a while ago. It will always be where I am from, but I don’t know when, if ever, I will call it home again. I am a Canadian who doesn’t belong in Canada.
I get caught in these spirals sometimes, I’ll feel nostalgic or homesick for Canada, but then I’ll think “the place you’re dreaming of doesn’t exist anymore,” falling into a pit of existential dread, wondering “where do I belong?!”
I try to avoid these pits, as they’re kind of counterproductive to everyday life. You can’t spend every minute of every day thinking about the infinite universe and how on a cosmic scale our existence is entirely meaningless.
That’s why I created the podcast. It’s a place for me to get metaphysical and philosophical so it doesn’t get in the way of everyday life. I’ll bring others to discuss living as an ex-pat, as well as, their thought on what happens to your cultural and personal identities when you move away from home.
You chose to make this project a podcast, why was that?
I grew up listening to public radio in Canada (shoutout to the CBC) and I’ve always loved listening to podcasts. There’s something very intimate about them like you’re being included in the conversation. They’re also very easy to consume passively. You can put a podcast on in the background while you’re doing the dishes or driving. I really like that.
Did you face any challenges when starting it? Did the global pandemic affect your working?
It is somewhat difficult to podcast remotely, having conversations via the internet isn’t the same as face to face. But for the most part, it’s pretty easy to make from home.
Podcasts have and are a new “hot” medium right now, and of course, you chose to make a podcast as well. Where do you think podcasts are going, what kind of future do you see in the industry?
I think you can see the power they have to distribute information. Look at something like The Joe Rogan Experience, which has millions of views. It’s sort of like a rebirth of radio, except now, everyone can broadcast.
What are your future plans with the podcast and other projects?
I am going to complete the first season in Finland, and then see where it goes from there.
I think the format of the show may change from there or maybe I might try a different topic entirely. I really don’t know yet.
Interview with Ian McIntosch, conducted and written by Isabella Presnal.