A week of waiting.
Eyes and Towers. London, England. Summer, 2013.
There were a few things that I meant to write this week, but they didn’t work out… at least, not this week.
It’s been a week of waiting. I’ve sent out my request for passport information and then I’ll be working through it. Next week, I should be looking at hints and advice drafted from travel advice and fitted for longer spans of travel and moving.
But this week, I’m a little off; maybe even a little lost. As I said, I’m waiting; for my visa; for my housing; to leave; for classes (and picking classes); for all the plans I’ve made to start happening.
This week, I ran across this post. It was written in April by Morgan Cantrell contrasting the expectation and realities of living abroad. Before reading it I was sure I had everything figured (and for a good set of the topics I had; I know I’m not driving for at least my year of study!), but there were little things that I was suddenly thinking: OH $#!T! I didn’t think of that!
Case and point: I cook for my family all the time (I’ve even cooked in other countries) but suddenly faced with the knowledge that I’ll have to be cooking all the recipes that I know by heart in CELSIUS (!) completely threw me. In fact, I freaked out so much, my father (who was sitting in the same room with me listening to the list) laughed out loud about my sudden realization that, yes, I have to deal with the metric system. GREAT.
One thing I loved was the comments on finding a JOB. As a student, I’m only allowed to work 20 hours a week during the semester and then full time when classes are not in session. The reality in Cantrell’s list is a frank one that I believe a lot of people forget about: (the sudden realization that) I have ZERO references in this country.
If you are a student, you are in luck. Your school probably has opportunities and contacts within the school but these tend to be basic part time gigs; library or cafeteria staff, possible office/departmental jobs, ect. And while some can boost your portfolio, resume, or CV, most are purely for pocket money.
One way to circumvent this (even though you are not a local and you references probably aren’t either) is to really work your connections.
LOOK UP PROFESSORS. These shouldn’t only be in your field, but, more specifically, in the specific emphasizes that you are looking at. This can be in your previous studies and/ or the ones you are undergoing. Talk to them, send them an email, whatever; Just make contact. If you are looking to break into the academic world, references from FORMER PROFESSORS (and, therefore, fellow academics) may count for more. Even if you are not looking at academics, contacting professors in your current level will probably be some of the best reference you can make when you are starting out in a new place. This contact can be made before you begin but you should really consider it once your classes get underway. These are the people who will most likely share your passions and really want you to succeed; they’ll be your most relevant contacts and references during and post- studies. Not to mention (besides being references), they probably have a whole list of their own contacts for you as well.
TALK TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN. Let them know you are moving and that you are looking for any work within your field (or work in general) as you probably do have more contacts than you think you do. The way you contact and use these contacts is what can make or break you. If a family friend gives you a contact, do not burn either of those bridges; it will just come back to haunt you. Many fields work like a web of contacts, so if you are lucky enough to score a job in your field, don’t waste the opportunity by taking it on when you can’t do the job. This can mean working on your time management skills, cutting back on extra-curriculars, knowing what your skills are and using them (as well as developing new ones), or slaking because you have a contact and feel safe in the opportunity. Make your opportunities and embrace the chances you get.
THEN there are also opportunities that need less references; at least, less solid ones. If your references are weak, look to talk to someone in the business. Go sell your personality and ability and hope those will speak for themselves. Do your best with getting references and tell those you have back home that they may be contacted by a company overseas. Put as many ways to contact your references as you can, because phone may not be the best or easiest ways to contact people outside the country.
These are my tips to work around the realities of moving and living abroad (though remember, nothing is guaranteed, no matter your contacts). Seriously, check out this post because it’s well worth it (the whole blog really)!
Anyway, til next time,
I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.