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Moving Abroad? Four Things to Consider

By Erica

On New Year’s Day, my brain did something along the lines of the following: “YAY! IN FOUR MONTHS WE’LL BE DONE WITH THE MASTER’S DEGREES AND WE’LL BE MOVING! FOUR MONTHS IS ONLY SIXTEEN WEEKS! THOSE WILL GO BY SO QUICKLY AND WE’LL BE DONE AND I’M SO EXCITED AND OH CRAP THAT MEANS SIXTEEN WEEKS TO WRITE THE DISSERTATION AND PACK UP THE HOUSE AND LEARN ABOUT INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS AND GET THE CAT OVER THERE AND I NEED VALIUM!!!!!1!” Yes. Even the “1” was present in my thoughts as I began to panic over the enormity of being sixteen weeks away from moving abroad. An independent, semi-permanent move to Germany is a terrifying game of bulls in china shops, the blind leading the blind, and every mixed metaphor you can think of. So to assist all you GoGirls (and Guys and GenderQueers) out there, I’ve come up with a list of a few things to consider when you’re prepping for a move abroad.

THING TO CONSIDER #1: What else is going on in your life? An international move takes a LOT of work and planning, unless you’re one of those mythical people who’s able to just pick up and relocate without a second thought (and if you are, don’t tell me because I’m insanely jealous). Since I’m clearly not one of those, I’ve sat down and thought about the multiple things I’m juggling in addition to the whole moving process. The three that top the list are finishing graduate school, finding my first full-time professional job, and planning our wedding. Sounds easy on paper (or on

Messiness comes in many forms.
The messiness of my room, packing to go back to Penna, is NOTHING compared to the messiness of my brain!

computer screen), but in reality it bears a strong resemblance to cooking a five-course meal, all at once, on a one-burner stove that’s only partially functional. I’m reasonably sure that most people who are preparing to move abroad feel similarly overwhelmed. So look at the things that need to be done that you can do with less effort- it is, after all, the age of convenience! Look into hiring a moving company or getting a membership on an employment website. Check out storage units if you don’t want to bring a lot of stuff. See where you can consolidate responsibilities-  it made my day, for example, to discover that my wedding reception venue comes complete with a caterer and vegetarian menu. Think of it like juggling Play-Doh. If you’re juggling lots of little balls of dough, that’s hard. But if you can squish the balls together to be two or three, it gets a lot easier.

THING TO CONSIDER #2: What are the immigration regulations that concern you? When preparing to move, it’s a good idea to have a basic idea of how long you want to live abroad and what you want to be able to do there. Why? Because your rough idea of your abroad-time will affect your immigration status while you’re there. Germany, for example, has an excitingly complex system of visas, permits, and residency statuses that’s almost impossible to find clearly described anywhere. It ranges from a stamp on your passport, which gets you 90 days in Germany for every 180 days of the year, to the TESA- a work visa that’s so highly coveted and hard to get, it must be made out of diamonds. Every country is different, even when they’re part of a conglomerate (yes, European Union, I’m talking about you), and in order to be able to have enough time to see and do the things you want, it’s a good idea to know what immigration statuses are available and what you need to do to get them. Very few things ruin a life abroad like the threat (or experience) of being deported!

THING TO CONSIDER #3: What’s your timeline? Again, unless you’re the aforementioned easy-breezy mover, international moves take months of planning. To live and work in an area you generally need a visa; to get a visa, you generally need a job; to get a job, you generally need to know the local requirements for employment and meet their expectations. Same goes for moving. To bring a household over, you need to pack and ship your stuff; to pack and ship your stuff, you need to know packing regulations, customs requirements, duties and tariffs, what’s considered contraband, and acceptable box sizes and weight limits; to know these things, it helps to call a moving company. Each step can take a while to complete, and some steps- visas and moving company bookings in particular- require you to be several months ahead of the game. Consider the timeline in light of your one-burner multi-course dinner juggling act, as well: if you’re going to move, you’re going to have to wrap things up before you leave; if you’re going to wrap things up before you leave, you need to have an idea of what needs to be done and how to do it. Think along the lines of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” only not nearly as delicious and with more of a mess to clean up.

THING TO CONSIDER #4: Are you really in this alone? Finally, when you start the process of getting ready to move, it can be easy (especially for a type A person like me) to feel like you’re responsible for everything and have to handle everything yourself. Cut yourself some slack! Moving abroad is a stressful enough process, psychologically speaking. As with the consideration of what else you have to handle in your life, think about who you can ask for help- but don’t think only in terms of hiring moving companies or paying for a slot on jobsearch.com. Can any of your friends, family, or partners help connect you to potential employers, movers, or take on any of the other things in your life? Are any of your friends also infected with the travel bug, and expressing an interest in coming with you (and carrying a bag of your stuff while they’re at it)? I was raised, like many of my woman-identified friends, to believe that a strong, independent woman rarely needs t0 ask for help and can handle most anything that’s thrown her way. Trust me when I say that this might be one of the situations in which asking for help doesn’t make you weak or dependent. If nothing else, you get a chance to spend time with the people you won’t be seeing a lot of for the next few years- and it’s a great chance for all of you to get caught up in the excitement of the adventures you’re going to be having soon!

Erica Laue
Erica first set foot on a plane when she was ten months old. 28 years, 18 countries, and four continents later, the travel bug’s still strong in her veins, and she's become increasingly engaged with issues of power, gender, sex, equality, and access around the world.

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1 Comment

  1. Its like you read my mind! You appear to
    know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other
    than that, this is great blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

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