Living overseas has been one of the most rewarding (and challenging) experiences of my life so far. It’s helped me understand different cultures, people, and places and has shifted my perspective about home and relationships. Had I not moved to New Zealand seven years ago, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to change my career path or seriously pursue writing and journalism. Though painful at times, these life changing experiences have imparted many lessons.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether moving overseas is right for you. You’ll likely need to factor in your family, your health, your finances, your friends, maybe even a partner or a pet. While motivations for moving can range from personal to professional, the experience will teach you more than you could ever imagine. It’s been awhile since 19-year-old me decided to apply for a study abroad program in New Zealand, so I wanted to share some tips I’ve learnt along the way:
- Save money. Whether you’re moving for a job or to study, make sure you save as much as you can. It could take you several months to find work, (or in my case, to sort out my visa!) so cutting back on everyday indulgences prior to departure is one of the most important steps you can take. Plus, when you arrive, you’ll want to explore and experience everything, so it helps to have a little extra cash in your savings.
- Decide where you want to go. This can be one of the trickiest decisions, and it helps to consider your contacts, the economy, the climate, your background, etc. Did you study Japanese at school? If so, maybe consider a move to Kyoto. What’s the medical system like? How affordable is health coverage? Some countries are easier to navigate than others and some systems are easier on foreigners.
- Sort out your visa. Like I mentioned above, obtaining a work or study visa can be a tedious process. Despite having dealt with immigration both in the United States and New Zealand for the past nine years, I still haven’t figured it out entirely. That being said, sorting it out in advance is a lot less stressful than arriving on a three-month visitor visa and crossing your fingers that something works out.
- Research. Once you’ve decided on a country and secured your visa, it’s time to learn as much as you can about your new home. What are the local customs and laws? What languages are spoken in your new country? After deciding on a city, look at neighbourhoods to determine where specifically you’d like to live.
- Apply for jobs. This is easier said than done (and I’m speaking from experience). Unless you’re highly sought after in your field, securing a job before arrival is very difficult. I mean, 11pm Skype interviews are only fun for so long. In the very least, do your research and figure out where you’d like to work and keep an eye out for job postings.
- Network. Before setting foot on New Zealand soil, I didn’t know a soul in the entire country. While my first few days were rather lonely, I felt like I could be whoever I wanted to be, reinventing myself. I was in a university setting, so making friends was inevitable. However, if you’re moving for work, networking is even more important. Ask a colleague out for coffee or join an expat group to commiserate with whenever you feel a twinge of homesickness.
I hope these tips proved helpful! If you’re considering a move overseas, please don’t hesitate to reach out!