Friday, October 9, 2009
mastering your expat life: the brainstorm
awhile ago, faithful reader 'em' commented on how she'd like to move abroad but wasn't sure where to go or how to get there. she made a list of different ways she could achieve this goal. these are the options she's entertaining:
• Securing employment with an American company with locations in Europe.
• Marrying a European (insane, yes. trite, I know but it is viable)
• Getting a license to do hair.
• MA in TESOL (or TEFL/TESL)
• Starving artist (I'll have an excuse to start drawing, painting and maybe even taking up music again)
all great ideas, em. here's my initial take on each:
SECURING EMPLOYMENT W/AMERICAN CO. IN EU
this option has as many pro's as cons. on the pro side, you'd be able to move to a new country and more or less, maintain the same standard of living (assuming it was good). you wouldn't have to go through the dance of looking for work, and you probably wouldn't even have to learn the language. on the other hand, you couldn't choose where you wanted to live; you'd have to go where there are offices. also, unless you train other employees, or have some other kind of rare managerial or technical skill, like splitting an atom with your bare hands, these positions are few, far between and highly competitive. damn those nordics who speak such good english, europe doesn't necessarily need us.
MARRYING A EUROPEAN
my fave!! it's been done and done again, for love and for papers and money. it is risky. there's the trust factor on both ends, but also what if you break up? do you now have to move? before we even tackle those questions, you've got to get through their evil first cousins--'dating in a foreign country' and 'creating a social circle (from which to draw eligible bachelors)'. because folks who can't get dates at home, aren't miraculously going to morph into successful man/woman-magnets abroad. your problems tend to follow you.
GETTING A LICENSE TO DO HAIR
the incubation time on this one is lengthy. if you don't have a background in hair, you'll have to do beauty school first. then have start-up money and a fierce rule book to open a proper business in the country of your choice. that said, black women's hair (assuming that's what we're talking about here) is atrocious in europe. everywhere in europe. anyone coming armed with pomade, a flat iron and a license would do BIG business here, just by word of mouth. probably don't even need a business plan; work those kitchens from your own kitchen.
MA in TESOL
i assume you'd want an MA in order to teach at, like, a public elementary or high school, because you don't need an MA to work at a language school. again, you'd need a year or two to complete this before applying for that type of job. nine-to-five is not for me, so i prefer the flexibility of a language school. that said, it's very difficult to get a language school to sponsor you for a visa, so MA plus public school or, better, international school, gives you a better chance.
the good news is that you can do an MA in TESOL abroad. at least in barcelona (check out l'Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). it's MUCH cheaper than in the US and gets you in europe NOW. also, student visas for accredited universities are a lot easier to secure than regular work visas. they limit your work hours to, like, 20 hrs per week, but if you save some dough first, it can definitely be done.
oh, how sweet the sound of this one! painting! drawing! music!! oh my... although it's virtually impossible to secure a visa without proof of how you'd be making your money (antithetical to the starving artist existence), i also like this one a lot. it gives you the chance to actually change your life; throw caution to the wind and live a life you're truly passionate about.
so, in that spirit, i'd like to add a few to this list:
become an international flight attendant, base yourself in europe
become a world music dj
offer your skills and services to an international NGO
be a UN or EU young professional
find a rich family to nanny for
join up with a volunteer program
start your own company
got a company? open offices abroad
these are just some of the ways people i know have created lives abroad for themselves. got anymore? let's make a comprehensive list of all the best and craziest. every friday i'll chop one up. i'll provide some examples of people i know who've done it, how they done it, and throw in a few links where i can. some will have to be broken down and spread out over a few weeks, like the marrying and dating one (oof!).
see, i realize that in all my 11 years living abroad, on and off, i've done it every which way: i've volunteered, i've been the starving artist (working as a dancer in paris), a student on the british government's dime in brighton and later, oxford. i fell in love and moved to belgium. and then, this last time, when i moved to spain, i went to and airport and said, 'if a plane for spain's leaving in the next 2 hours for less than 200 euros, i'm on it.' and the rest was history. i've accumulated a wealth of information in the process. it's time to share it.
you with me? if you're goal is to move abroad someday, why not make it this year? how you gonna get from where you are to where you wanna go??