I think a lot of people freak out over the idea of living in another country, simply because they don’t know what to expect. What I learned, though, is that it’s not really as hard as your mind makes it out to be. If things don’t go your way and you have to scramble at the last minute in a foreign country, your animal instincts just sorta kick in and you figure it out. So the first step is literally just pushing those doubts out of your mind and telling yourself you can do it.
1. Do your research.
It’s not really enough to just say you want to move somewhere, you kinda have to have a semi-plan. Think about what kind of work you want to do and research as many cities as you can that you’re even remotely interested in. Sometimes you have to do the opposite and make job sacrifices to be in the city you want to be in (that’s fine too). Know your demographic, know what languages they speak, and know the job market. If you’re looking for a specific job ahead of time (such as an au pair, farm work, etc.), it’s better to get that lined up first before you complete the rest of this process.
2. Get a Visa.
This part can be tricky, as Visa requirements vary from country to country, and there are also different rules based on what country you’re from. Typically, Working Holiday Visas are the most common for temporary work, but if you’re a U.S. citizen, the only places that offer Working Holiday are New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and Ireland (the latter three you must be in school or have graduated within the past 12 months). However, you have a lot of other options, whether it be special Au Pair Visas or work-sponsorship--there are still other ways to work temporarily (again, research!). Make sure you have enough money too. Typically a Working Holiday Visa can cost up to $500, and they require that you have a decent amount of money in your bank (anywhere from a grand, up to 5k). The good news is though, for American citizens your application is usually approved fairly quickly.
3. Book your flight.
After dropping money on your Visa and trying to save every dime you can, I know booking your flight is probably the one thing you want to delay the longest because of how badly it can hurt your wallet, but it’s better to get it out of the way. Typically, the lowest prices for an international flight are 6 weeks before the departure, or even further out. Be sure to clear your cache and history on your computer and phone when searching for flights (airlines can be sneaky and jack up prices after they’ve collected data on you continuously searching for specific flights). Also when you move abroad, you no longer need a lot of the crap you have lying around. I sold my used car, my printer, and two dressers to pay for my one-way ticket to Australia--the more stuff you let go of, the easier it is to afford it.
4. Be prepared.
Packing will be the biggest elephant in your bedroom until the night before you leave--pack and re-pack and keep packing until it stresses you out no more! I have always had a little Type A in me, so when I first arrived in Australia, I had already researched the best banks and cell phone services, and the closest locations nearby. Don’t spend more than you have to, and definitely take care of this the first week you’re there--you’ll want to get it over with. It’s also a good idea to Google boring adult stuff like taxes. Tax forms always confuse me, and I had to fill them out when I got there and it was not fun. I actually don’t expect you to do that last bit--but I warned you.
5. Find a job. Make friends. Sleep.
If you’re arriving to the country without a job or apartment lined up, make sure you have a temporary place to live while you look for work. A hostel nearby is your best case scenario if there’s one available. Hostels are a great place to work in because they’re flexible, in case you want to do more traveling (instead of living in one place), and some will even let you work there temporarily to earn your keep while you look for work. This can be the most stressful part, but the more you’re out talking to other people and applying, the more opportunities will arise.
I was literally so exhausted my first week in Australia, but the sooner you make friends, the less lonely you’ll feel. You’re more than likely to be the most homesick the first few months that you’re there, but especially if you haven’t gotten close with anyone yet. Put yourself out there and be friendly, or you can go online to meet up with others. Bigger cities will do a lot of Meetup events or if you’re an au pair, there are a lot of Facebook groups you can join to meet other au pairs.
Once you make friends, it’s all smooth sailing from there. Make a bucket list of everything you want to do, and try and find time to do everything on your list. Safe travels!