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!

I Moved Abroad So You Didn’t Have To: A Guide

Moving. My gut reaction to hearing this word used, in the context of launching one’s self from one place to another with long term intentions, is dread. My stomach ties itself up into knots and I honestly start feeling a little lightheaded. After taking a deep breath (go on, take one now), I try to clear my head of the thousands of questions, concerns, and feelings that flooded my mind. Then, finally, I look at my to do list and get cracking. Time to get moving! Heh, puns are great.

So enough beating around the bush. For one reason or another, you’re curious about how moving to another country works. There are tons of ways for you to do this. However, in this series, I will specifically focus on how to achieve this goal via obtaining a job that offers a path to sponsorship. That doesn’t mean it’s the best, most optimal, or time efficient path. It’s just how I happened to make my international move happen and thus the only area where I have first hand knowledge. So why did I move anyways? Well, I’ve always wanted to work abroad, and after being in school for roughly 20 consecutive years, I was eager to enter the workforce. I also wanted to live with my partner but was not ready to commit to marriage (there was a partnership option, but we’ll get there in a later post). While I kept my options open by keeping my eyes peeled for internship opportunities, my goal was to land a job. With a lot of hard work and, honestly, equal parts luck, I finally got a job.

This was not an easy or straightforward process. Before moving I spent months researching the jobs landscape, learned what credentials I needed in order to practice, read up on policy, and more. I searched tirelessly online, through alumni records, faculty resources, and my personal network for advice on how to make such a move possible. What I found were scraps which I eventually pieced together into a solid framework. I took the idiom “no stone goes unturned” to heart during my search. From chatting with a study abroad friend, to sending out of the blue Linkedin requests, even reaching out to a friend of a co-worker of my mom’s. Every single lead I found or received, I went for it. If you only take one lesson away from this book, it’s to chase down every single lead possible.

There’re a few caveats I’d like to present before I proceed. This is very American and UK centric guide. I will try my best to provide general immigration advice. However, there’s a reason why there’re immigration lawyers that specialize in a single country! Everyone has their own laws and rules. There will be some overlap, but I highly recommend you go beyond this series with your research. The same goes for job hunting. Every industry is different and has their own way of assessing candidates. I’ll be writing from a social worker’s perspective who got a job in social work. Nonetheless, I believe reading about my experiences will be beneficial to you.

Finally, I fully acknowledge that my privilege, being a white cis female with financial stability and a well connected support network, played a huge role achieving my goals. Even with all of these privileges, it was a struggle obtaining work. Therefore, I cannot guarantee that after reading this and making a great effort that you will be successful.

So, if you’ve made it this far, you must be really determined to learn about immigrating and working abroad! Or, at the very least, you’re being charitable and indulging me. Either way, I hope you find this guide enlightening and enjoyable.

How Anti-Rape Tech Perpetuates Victim Blaming and Increases the Burden of Responsibility

Strong content notice for mentions of rape and sexual violence. If you feel

Note: This piece focuses on women (cis and non-cis gender) as well as non-gender binary people as survivors of rape and sexual assault as it disproportionately affects me as a cis-gender women and that population. This is not mean to erase sexual violence against other genders.

Across my social media, I’ve seen the anti-rape shorts come up again after a much too brief hiatus. They’re deemed as an effective method of preventing rape and sexual assault. These chastity belts fashionable shorts are made with wearer’s comfort and safety in mind by adding special locks and creating special fabric that prevents assailants from ripping, tearing, or pulling down the shorts. While the creators cite statistics that resisting sexual assault decreases the likelihood of being raped or hurt (which is dodgy and unsupported claim), they fail to address what the shorts can’t do:

1. The wearer could be coerced to take them off or sexually assaulted after taking them off.

Through coercive action, the wearer could be forced to take them off. Even if the wearer removes the garment without any sort of coercion, the danger of sexual assault remains.
2. They will not prevent sexual assault, which goes well beyond unwanted genital penetration.

Rape, strictly using a textbook definition, is unwanted sexual intercourse or other forms of unwanted sexual penetration. While the shorts may prevent an assailant from accessing one’s body below their waist, they can still penetrate orally or force them to conduct other sexual acts.

3. They will not prevent groping, unwanted contact, stalkers, or other forms of sexual predation.

4. Stranger rape is not the most common form of rape.

According to RAINN, 28% of rapes are committed by a person the survivor has never met. While that is a high number, consider that 45% of rapes are committed by an acquaintance, and 25% by a current or former significant other. 7 out of 10 survivors know the person who raped them. The marketing for this product is clearly centered around prevent rape during potential stranger danger scenarios i.e. jogging, going to a bar, etc. One is probably not going to be wearing these specialized shorts 24/7 or around people they trust.

5. This product places a financial burden on potential victims and perpetuates victim blaming.

Victim blaming is a common practice globally. Survivors are forced to accept responsibility by society for the sexual assault they experienced due to what society deems as risk factors i.e. wearing tight and revealing clothing, getting intoxicated, being outside late at night, living one’s life, etc. These virginity vaults anti-rape shorts are also just another financial burden to protecting our right to go outside and exist as normal human beings. I’m going to need to start a new savings account to keep up with all of the latest anti-rape tech, lest I be blamed for not taking what society deems as appropriate measures to protect myself.

6. There are more effective ways of preventing sexual assault.

Teaching men (inb4 #notallmen!) how to avoid compromising situations and intervention techniques to prevent and stop unwanted sexual contact is important and effective. Prevention also manifests as providing education around debunking rape myths, rape-supportive attitudes, gender roles, and socialization. Research into such programs have hit a few barriers, such as lack of data collection, using different tools to collect data, and lack of standardization or implementation, data collection, and analysis. Despite these barriers, there is enough research and evidence out there that have shown that prevention and educational programs are effective.

I’m not saying all anti-rape tech is bad. Trust me, I think it’s pretty awesome that we can create nail polish that detects common date rape drugs and condoms with teeth that can only be removed by a medical professional (and the great thing about the condoms especially is that they’re being widely distributed at no cost). And hey, if you can afford it and it makes you feel safer and more confident, then by all means go for it. But once we start going down the capitalist rabbit hole with $50-$60 genital jail cells locking garments and $100 rape whistles, you start to wonder who these products are really for *cough skinny able bodied well off white women* and where the burden of preventing rape really lies with *cough definitely not with the perpetrators*.

Here are links to some of the resources I used to put this piece together:
An Evidence-Based Review of Sexual Assault Preventive Intervention Programs- https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/207262.pdf