I Moved Abroad So You Didn’t Have To Chapter Two: Where Should I Go?

Picking a place to move can be challenging. To help you narrow down your search, create a list of criteria the place must meet. Nothing is too big or too small to add to your list! After all, you’ll be living there for the foreseeable future. Unless if you’re aspiring to be a nomad, then by all means, put up a poster of a map of the world, get some of your sharpest throwing stars, and throw, baby, throw. For those of you who don’t own a set of throwing stars (seriously, go get a set) try making a list. Take a close look at what your values are both culturally and politically. Can you sacrifice gum chewing to live in Singapore? Perhaps you’ll want to avoid countries where being any sexual orientation other than straight is against the law. Ask yourself what kind of climate you can tolerate as well as cuisine is extremely important. If you can’t stand the cold, maybe moving to Antarctica isn’t the best idea, no matter how much you love penguins. Maybe learning a new language is exciting to you or daunting. Perhaps picking a country with a large community of people who observe the same customs as you is what’s most important. Everyone’s list of criteria will look different and there’s no right or wrong way to complete this exercise.

Probably the most important aspect of your move is to figure out what you want to do when you get there. Whether it be working, volunteering, formal education, freelancing, raising a child, and more, you should make sure you can pursue your livelihood in the place you’re moving to. If you have an “anywhere but America!” attitude, joining the Peace Corps is a great option. Just make sure you’re joining for the right reasons. Other countries may have similar programs, so definitely take a close look. Other countries offer youth mobility visa programs. These programs offer citizens of certain countries visas to work. For example, the UK offers such a program. Other countries are doing their best to attract artists, such as Germany. There are tons of ESL programs such as JET. If you’re a recent graduate (age doesn’t matter) you can look into pursuing an internship and obtaining sponsorship through BUNAC. It’s also worth researching if they’re experiencing any talent shortages. For example, at the time of my move, the UK was experiencing a shortage of children and family social workers which ended up working in my favor to a tremendous degree.

I’m sure there’re tons of other programs and opportunities out there. You just have to do the research, but where? Tap into your professional networks whether it be where you went to college, a professional organization you’re a member of, or with colleagues on Linkedin. Surprisingly, the people I reached out to on Linkedin were more than happy to chat with me about working abroad. If you went to college or university, check with the alumni association for connections abroad. Your luck may vary here. My undergraduate school, Earlham College, has an easily searchable database with contact info of every single alumni (which may sound creepy but you can change it at any time). New York University, however, did not have such a database and were not very helpful in my networking pursuit. Contact the leadership of your professional organization or certification program. At the very least, they may suggest which region specific branches or separate organizations you should reach out to. It might feel awkward and forced, but at the end of the day, people generally want to help others, especially if they get to talk about themselves in the process!

Starting with people a bit too daunting? Here’s where the skill of Google Fu comes in handy! Google is both a friend and an enemy. The great thing about searching online is the copious amounts of information via forums, blogs, and NGO and government homepages. However, digging around the internet can quickly turn into spelunking inside an unexplored cave. Try to break up you furious Googling with well deserved breaks and avoid falling down the rabbit hole.

Staying organized is essential. Keep meticulous notes on who you’ve talked to, bookmark blogs that were helpful, and highlight integral information in government documents. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of, “I’m sure I’ll be able to find this again later!” I personally used Dropbox and Google Drive to keep all of my PDFs, and applications organized. If you need physical pieces of paper, print everything and store it all in labeled folders. Keep a notebook that’s dedicated to organizing your move. If you know you’ll lose that notebook (it me), use a program such as Google Docs or Evernote. Below is the order of operations I used to get where I am now:

  1. Decided in May 2016 that I wanted to move to the UK because my partner lived there, specifically London
  2. Researched educational requirements and necessary certifications and filled out applications
  3. Extensively combed through the UK Home Office’s websites for visa information
  4. Combed through the list of companies that sponsor visas
  5. Contacted alumni, joined alumni Facebook groups, and emailed alumni via Linkedin
  6. Flew to London in October 2016
  7. Joined the British Association of Social Workers and attended all events promoted by them i.e. job fairs, advocacy sessions
  8. Met with first degree connections and asked for further connections
  9. Sent out 50+ applications
  10. Accept a job offer December 2016
  11. Started working May 2017

You might be thinking “Damn, it took you a whole year to make this work!?” This is just how the process went for me. I took a few months off to hang out with friends and relax. I also worked briefly before moving to London. This list is also not exhaustive. There were a lot of other little steps along the way. Next up is a topic that we all love to hate: money!

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