MISSION: BUILD THE DREAM

Hear the candid accounts of 10 women who left everything behind to move to another country

It seems romantic, daring and so very Under the Tuscan Sun to pick up and move to a new, exotic country. (And certainly having your family around during the holidays can make it easier to imagine a move to a whole other continent.)

Well, if you've ever considered adopting a new land as your own, first read the candid experiences of these 10 inspiring women who did just that. They reveal what they expected to happen when they moved to a new country—and what really happened instead. They also give you valuable tips for making your transcontinental move one you won't regret.

Wendy Lyon, 36, parliamentary secretary, single

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Ireland

 

 

What prompted the move:

I’d visited several times and loved it, so I finally decided to chance my arm and see if I could get a work permit. Amazingly enough, I could and did!

What she was expecting:

I guess I thought I would have a whole new life. 

What the reality was:

I found it more difficult to adjust than I’d been prepared for. Ireland is supposed to have become such a thoroughly modern, cosmopolitan country and in a lot of ways it really isn’teven in Dublin.  The Church still has a huge amount of influence (over 90% of schools here are Catholic-run), women have to go to England for abortions and black people face constant racial abuse. Everything closes early and a lot of the infrastructure (public transport, broadband etc.) are worse than you’d find in Eastern Europe.  You don’t really notice these things when you’re on holiday, but once you settle in and start getting involved in the daily life of a country, all its faults and failings become impossible to miss.

The most rewarding part:

New experiences, broadened horizons, challenged assumptions.

The toughest part:

Moving all your stuff (I still haven’t managed to do it completely!). But it can also be difficult just working out how to go about doing routine tasksfrom where to buy envelopes, to how to use washing machines, to getting health carewhich are done differently in your new country. A lot of these things you just don’t ever think about before you move!  

You can also get really tired of being a foreigner sometimes. One of the things I like the most about visiting home is being able to open my mouth without automatically being judged on account of my accent. I almost never face hostility in Ireland because of it, but sometimes I feel that when people hear me talk they hear the accent first, and what I’m saying second.

What family and friends had to say:

They were all prepared for it. I’d been saying that I wanted to do it since I was a teenager.

Any plans to return home:

No. I think America is going backwards politically and the things that I always disliked about itthe insularity, the mindless jingoism, the military-and-industrial-complex controlare getting worse. In Europe, people know that there are other countries around them; they respect those countries and they’re willing to learn from them. On a more selfish note, I like having a legal right to four weeks of vacation per year!

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

I would say “go for it”it’s a great experience overall. But be prepared for reality to hit you after a while. You may be in a different country, but you’re still the same person and any problems you might have left behind in your old country will soon enough be replaced by new ones. It’s not a permanent holiday.
 


 

Megan McLees, 23, student, single

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Thailand and Singapore

 

 

What prompted the move:

I have always been interested in traveling, ever since I was young. I used to wonder how anyone could live their life without looking around the world. I kept my eyes open for an opportunity to work abroad, considering Peace Corps, volunteer work and study abroad. The majority of what I came across wasn't a right fit for me, because I didn't want to pay my own airfare or worry about paying for living expenses. I was a poor college student looking for adventure and change of landscape, and wanted someone to pay for it.

I was working at a local co-op while going to school, and we had a community bulletin board where people posted various signs ranging from house rentals to sales. One day as I came into work, I saw an advertisement on the board which read: "Looking for a new experience?" (and I thought, YES!)... I read on... "Teach English in Thailand. We offer accommodation, a monthly salary of $400 etc."

I called the number right away and within a week I was on a plane. It was really very sudden. I moved out of my apartment, and ordered my passport (which arrived the day before I flew!).

What she was expecting:

I knew it would be a life-changing experience, but I wasn't really expecting too much. Maybe I didn't know what to expect... to be honest it seemed like the people around me had more expectations than I had. I tried to keep an open mind and not expect anything, I just wanted to take it in as a new experience.

What the reality was:

It was all such a rush, but so exciting! When I moved, I felt so good to have finally taken that leap of faith and do what I had always wanted.

The most rewarding part:

Learning about a new culture. You learn so much about yourself when you are in a strange new environment. Everything is different and interesting!

The toughest part:

Learning how to fit into the new culture. Apart from the obvious challenges of language and food, one of the hardest things for me was feeling misunderstood and lonely. When I lived and worked with the Thai people, I felt like they couldn't understand what it was like to move to a new country that was so different from your own. They were very welcoming and friendly, but it was difficult for us to relate to each other, not to mention communicate! Only a couple of people in the whole town spoke English. It can be lonely, but you learn how to deal with this by meeting other people in a similar situation: other teachers or travelers to share stories with.

What family and friends had to say:

Thankfully, I have really supportive parents who trust in me. My mom was a bit worried about my safety, but I told her not to worry about it. My friends were very excited for me and happy that I was going to experience this. They are still very supportive, and it really helps you get through the tough times. They see the country I live in through my eyes now, and so they traveling through me in a way.

Any plans to return home:

I've given it some thought, but I can't see myself returning. I will definitely go back to visit my friends and family, but I will leave again. There are too many countries to see. A river never returns to its starting point, right? I want to keep going.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Make sure you have people to talk to who are supportive or can relate to you. Take care of your health, take lots of pictures and enjoy every minute of it.



 

Kerryanne O'Reilly, 37, bookbinder, married

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Netherlands

 

 

What prompted the move:

While traveling for a few months in 1999, I met a Dutch guy in the Czech. Republic. We spent an evening talking, exchanged addresses. A few months after my return to the States we started emailing, which led to phone calls, which led to two visits (he to the States, me to the Netherlands). Since I also hold European citizenship (Irish) I made the move as I didn't have to worry about a visa, etc.

What she was expecting:

To find out if he (Hans) and I could pursue a serious relationship. Even as early as the second visit we knew we had to decide whether or not we wanted to give it a shot. 4,000 miles makes getting to know each other very difficult.

What the reality was:

Because I had always traveled quite a bit I wasn't too shocked. What was hard was realizing I had a one-way ticket and was no
longer just traveling around. I had to find a job, learn the language, make friends and get to know Hans better. What helped was that I did not move in with him right away. I rented two rooms for the first six months, bought a bike (everyone here cycles
more bikes than cars!), forced myself to get to know the city, started language classes and tried not to be too dependant on Hans for everything.

The most rewarding part:

The Netherlands is pretty much in the center of Europe so traveling to other places is very easy. We go to cities like Barcelona and Antwerp for long weekends, hiking in the Ardennes and did a three-week road trip through Italy. That's amazing.

I like the way Dutch people don't rush around so much, too. People don't tend to get as stressed out or sweat the small stuff. Everyone has health insurance and 25 days per year vacation time. That's been great because I have been able to take vacations with Hans but also visit friends and family back home several times a year. I have also made some close friends from all over the world.

The toughest part:

Getting used to a new culture and being so far from friends and family. I also missed the life I had in Philadelphia: cool studio, friends all around who I could meet anytime just to hang out or grab a beer, being involved in a close-knit art community, my non-profit job, etc. I was also used to living in a pretty diverse city culturally.

"Diverse" in Europe isn't the same as home. The most difficult, however, has been politically. What's going with the current
administration is viewed and reported upon in a very different fashion. Seeing the repercussions of what your government chooses to do (regardless of whether or not you agree) cannot be ignored, especially now. From a different perspective is quite an eye opener.

What family and friends had to say:

My friends and family were very supportive! It was a bit out of character for me to run off for a boy so they knew I must have had a good feeling. It was difficult to leave, though. It's been fun having my parents and friends visit; we love that.

Any plans to return home:

That's hard to say. I know I don't want to live in the Netherlands forever, but reality sort of dictates decision making. Hans loves the
States and has no problem moving there but he also has his own business which would be hard to leave. Right now we have our minds set on starting with buying some property back home and seeing where it leads us. We go to the States quite frequently so it's not to hard to picture us living there. Our dream would be to spend part of the year in Utrecht (the city where we live and bought a big old house) and the other part in the States.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Learn the language! Don't listen to, "Everyone speaks English." It may be true to some extent but the bottom line is that you need to
learn it. It also makes life easier and more interesting! You integrate faster, understand the culture and country better, native people are more open to you, etc. My Dutch is far from perfect but I feel so much more comfortable as opposed to when I couldn't say a word.
 


 

Kelly Showker-Mulira, 24, works at the regional security office of the US Embassy in Kampala, married

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Uganda


What prompted the move:

I had traveled to Uganda in 2002 and met an amazing woman who was a member of a local government body for an area in Northern Uganda riveted with conflict, rebel activity and war. We exchanged information, but I some how lost her contact address. Over the next two years I often thought about her. 

One day, about two years since we first met, I decided to go online to look up information on her district in Uganda to see if there was a contact number or email somewhere for the government body there that I could then contact her through. As I was looking online after about an hour, a friend of mine called to see if I was going to go vote in my local elections, which were that day. I said yes and started looking for my voters card. When I pulled out my voters card out of an old wallet, the very thing I was looking for fell out from behind the card: the woman's address.

I wrote to her expressing that I had not forgotten about her plight and that I still wanted to help out. She wrote back with great joy and suggested I raise some money and collect certain items for them and come in person to Uganda to volunteer. I took the whole series of events as a sign that I should go and I did. I was 21 at the time, still in my last year of college when I began making plans. My parents were not amused at the time, though now they are proud of me.  

What she was expecting:

I knew a little what to expect, because I had traveled to Uganda before.

What the reality was:

I had done quite a bit of planning before I arrived, but everything changed once I came to Uganda. The woman I was staying with who was a humanitarian worker for the organization I was volunteering for began trying to extort me financially. That was very difficult to deal with. I was forced to distance myself from her, move out on my own sooner than I intended, and eventually focus more on volunteering with a different non government organization.

I was not prepared for the amount of effort it took me to get settled in, or the endless difficulties I had beginning work there due to political, cultural and religious conflicts going on within the organization I was supposed to be volunteering for. I essentially found myself embroiled in a religious scandal from the moment I set foot in Uganda, eventually preventing me from working full time for that organization. In retrospect, I feel it pushed me towards different work, with disabled women, that was actually more rewarding.

The most rewarding part:

Learning about another culture. Experiencing a totally new way and pace of life. Meeting other expatriates and well-educated country nationals that have such interesting perspectives on Uganda and have lived all over the world. And, for me, meeting my husband and getting married here!

The toughest part:

Making friendships that were actually true friendships, people that were not looking to get ahead through me or gain financially, but that I genuinely had something in common with. After two years though, I can honestly say that I have made the greatest friends here anyone could imagine, Ugandan as well as American, Canadian, Norwegian and other African Nationals from various other African countries.  

What family and friends had to say:

My parents thought I was nuts at first and feared for my safety, particularly my dad. Now they have adjusted to it and have visited Uganda three times and love it! My friends really admire me for the bold move.

Any plans to return home:

My husband and I have discussed moving back. Even though he is Ugandan, he actually came back to the country the same week I did, and prior to that lived in the United States for eight years. Two of his sisters and many cousins also live there, so we both have ties to my home country. Our ultimate goal is to have a house in Uganda and in America.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Depending on whether you are moving to a developed country or a developing country be prepared for obstacles arising from sexism. In my case, for every one genuine guy there are 5,000 guys who are not, no exaggeration. You may also meet obstacles in the workplace related to your gender, as I certainly did. Make friends with the national population but also seek out friends from your home country for supportit will make the adjustment easier.

 
 

Cassandra Walker, 22, English teacher, single

Moved from: USA

Moved to: South Korea

 

 

What prompted the move:

I served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador and returned home to Arizona in March. I was unhappy back in Arizona and wanted to get out of the country quickly. I saw an ad for teaching abroad and knew it was perfect.

What she was expecting:

Many things. I wanted to immerse myself in another culture, learn another language and continue to live the expat life. The fact that I got free plane fare and free housing didn't hurt either. :)

What the reality was:

South Korea is very Westernized and very urban. Coming from the suburbs in the USA, I was not used to city life. For instance, being able to walk places instead of driving is new to me. I was surprised by how materialistic this society is. I suppose I thought I would have more similar of an experience to how life was in El Salvador: a rural third world country that is very poor and pretty disconnected to the world. Boy, was I wrong.

The most rewarding part:

Independence and self-fulfillment. One of my main goals was to become more self-aware and I am definitely doing that here. I love working with kids and I realized that my degree in business would have never led me down the path I am on today. I love being in a foreign culture and experiencing the world outside of my comfort zone.

The toughest part:

Being away from my family and friends,  especially when the holidays roll around.

What family and friends had to say:

When I left for El Salvador, my parents tried to talk me out of it (they even tried to bribe me to stay). They thought I was crazy for leaving a good paying job, house, car, friends, etc. Eventually, they came around and understood why I needed to do it.

When I left for Korea, they were still sad to have me go, but overall were more at peace with me moving to Korea as opposed to a third world country.

My friends completely supported me and said they always knew I would do something like this.

Any plans to return home:

Oh, man, I have no idea. More than five years, I am sure. But how much more remains to be seen. I want to travel the world and teaching is a good way to do it.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Make contacts with people already living there so you can get the real scoop on what life will be like. Prepare yourself for a life-changing experience and figure out what your goals are before you move. Other than that, carpe diem.


 

Liz Riley, 25, project manager for a magazine, married

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Ireland

 

 

What prompted the move:

My then fiance. We're married now.

What she was expecting:

A new experience, and a freedom I didn't think I was experiencing in the US. I felt very pressured to live up to other's expectations and I thought Ireland would be different.

What the reality was:

Much different. While my in-laws and the few friends I had were very friendly, I found out that many people are not that accepting of foreigners in this country. It was a real adjustment. I didn't get this hostility when I was visiting, only when I moved here, so it was a surprise. Also, people are as materialistic here as they are at home. This isn't at all a bad thing, but there is a sense of trying to out do each other here.  It's the same as it was in the US.

The most rewarding part:

When you realize that you are a part of this place. It took a while to get down the jargon of Dublin, and the way the city moves. But now I feel as much a part of it as I did in my town in the US. I know the weather. I know where things are that aren't on the tourist track. I have a street savvy now that I definitely didn't have when I was a tourist, and having that familiarity is quite rewarding.

The toughest part:

Missing my family and friends.  I never thought it would be easy, but I didn't think it would be this hard.

What family and friends had to say:

Everyone was really excited. No one discouraged me. My mother didn't want me to go, but she knew I was going to. She tried to get me to push back the day I was leaving from January 2005 till May 2005, but I left on time.

Any plans to return home:

We expect to, but we're not sure when.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Think about what you are getting into.  Some days, even the smallest things will get to me. Others I won't be bothered at all. But I would say you really need to think and consider every possibility. I didn't consider the fact that people die, people get married, babies are born and you are not there in your home city to experience these things with your family and friends and it's expensive to go home. 
 


 

Tanya Noreen, 34, high school teacher, engaged

Moved from: Canada

Moved to: Japan and Hong Kong

 




What prompted the move:

Boredom. Tired of the same old, same old jobs in Canada. I wanted an adventure. I wanted to get out. My contract in Canada was finished and I was job hunting. After sending out resumes within my home province and to a few overseas schools, Japan replied first, so I took it. I also had another girl making the move with me, so that was a small catalyst. In the long run, she was unable to handle being away from home and moved fairly quickly.

What she was expecting:

At the time, I was unsure. To make money to pay of student loans, learn a new language and culture, do some traveling, to make a life in another country. When I left Canada, I had every intention of staying in Japan until they kicked me out. Sadly, I did not like my job there enough to stay there that long. But I moved expecting to make it fairly permanent and not just for a few months. I don’t know if you can ever know what to expect from another country you have never been to.

What the reality was:

Japan was a shock. My job was terrible, working for a big chain school, the McDonald’s of English teaching. Culture shock didn’t hit for a bit because I think that the reality of working six days a week took over first. I almost cried the first time I went to a fast food place and realized I could not order anything.

We had always been told how polite the Japanese were, that they are super considerate. I found that to be slightly untrue in Osaka, being a larger city. It shocked me how few of the people there understood basic English, which was ignorance on my part.

It shocked me how small flats were and how pricey. Japan was a good move, but I wish I had done more research before going.

Hong Kong was a delightful move. The level of English in most places here was better. My job was in a proper high school. My flat actually had a proper kitchen and bedroom. The public transport is amazing. It was a good move.

The most rewarding part:

Learning about a new place, a new language, new people, new places to see, new foods, new jobs and adventures. It is certainly not boring to switch countries.

Since moving to Asia, I have visited over 12 countries and I am constantly looking for new places to go. It’s a great feeling and I love going to new places.

My students in Hong Kong are pretty amazing as well. They love hearing about Canada and I like hearing about their lives in Hong Kong.

I have a great crew of expat friends and local mates as well. The people are so diverse that you get to meet from all over the globe, which can only enrich your life in the long run. While in Japan, I met a lovely girl from the UK. After Japan, she went to Russia, so I went to see her. That would have never happened from Canada. You make lifelong contacts that could take you to all ends of the Earth.

The toughest part:

Settling affairs at home and dealing with the homesickness that is bound to follow. Getting re-established in a new place (bank accounts, credit, flats) is tough. Finding basic services, like the Foreign Consulates, when you need them can be a headache as well. Finding places to get clothes that fit westerners can be a problem if you are taller/larger than most people.

There is, of course, that feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, you have made a wrong move somewhere and perhaps coming to a new country is not the best idea. I doubted myself after about six months in Japan. I could not handle the job or the living situation I had with co-workers. Moving out on my own gave me the space I needed to explore and to find my place and get my head sorted out.

Language can be an issue. It would have helped if I had had a friend in Japan I could have asked for help when I got there. The company helped, but considering that they were getting about 25 new recruits every week, they were pretty pressed for time.

In Canada, we work to live. We work so that we can pay our bills, eat, have a car and take vacations. In Asia, they live to work. It’s a concept I will never understand. My co-workers look at me with envy when I leave at 5pm or take my Easter break and go to Vietnam. It’s hard to get used to and not feel guilty when you take off for your major holidays and your staff is still working. I like my job, but it is not my life. My life is my friends, my family, my hobbies. That is what makes my life worthwhile.

What family and friends had to say:

My parents were a little shocked. They asked why, where, how, when, why, which country, why…but they understood why I was going and they knew that I would have done more than enough research. My friends' reactions ranged from shock to blatant envy that they were not able to move away and explore new places. My co-workers wondered if I would be able to move back and still teach in Canada with overseas experience.

One of the hard things about returning home for a visit is that people will ask you how XX place is/was and then glaze over as you talk to them. Sadly, many people I know have not been outside of Canada and, therefore, have no frame of reference when it comes to places I have seen and been to. Aside from the postcards I send, they may never experience the amazing places I have. It’s hard when they ask my about my vacations because I never know if I should tell them or not, if they really want to hear it about it or not.

Any plans to return home:

Honestly, no. I am getting married in two weeks to a wonderful man from Australia. If anything, I will move there next, if I can not convince him to give Hong Kong a go. Perhaps, in the future, we might go back to Canada, but I can’t see it at the moment.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Do your homework. Talk to other people who have done it, who live there now. Go to online forums like Dave’s ESL café and AsiaXpat.com and ask questions no matter how silly you think they are. If you want to go to Japan, get a copy of the book Being A Broad in Japan by Caroline Pover. It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to move to Japan.

Wrap up loose ends like bills and ensure that you can get non-resident status in your home country so that you are not getting tax bills in two places. Sell your big stuff and keep your more personal items in storage with family or friends. I sold everything, even gave my dog to someone. It hurt, but it was the best thing, as it meant I had to make this work.

Get involved when you get there. Join a club, find people to hang out with, get out! Do not sit at home and lament your homesickness. That will be okay for a day or two, but you will miss out on so much if that is the focus of your time in your new home. Embrace it as your new home, not just a place to visit. Try to strike the phrase “But back in XXX, we do ….” It might take awhile, but it is better if you can make that a phrase of the past.

Find a good travel agent and get out and see things around you. Find friends who like to explore your local area and get out on days off.

Make wherever you live your home. Buy nice furniture, decent housewares and live there. At the moment, I feel as if I have three homes: Hong Kong, Canada and Australia. When I am in each place, I feel equally as comfortable, equally as content.

If it is not working for you, if you are truly not happy in your chosen country, move or go home. There is no shame in not liking your choice, but do give it a fair shake. I loved Japan at the start, hated it after a few months and thought about going home, and fell in love with it again after a short holiday. However, I should have left Osaka about nine months before I did. I was miserable at the end, but could not move until I had a job lined up in Hong Kong. Don’t stay until you are miserable and hate the place you were living.

In Hong Kong, I have my ups and downs, but mostly ups. On the down days, I take a bus to the island, look at all the lovely buildings, watch the Harbour light show and fall in love with Hong Kong all over.

Keep a diary. Start a blog. Take loads of pictures. Document this time in your life. You won’t be sorry.

Moving countries can be one of the best things you can do. It can also be the scariest. Think long and hard before you move, but if you do, do it all with all the enthusiasm you can muster!


 

Elizabeth Reiff, 26, checker for insurance company, married

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Scotland


What prompted the move:

My marriage to my husband. John and I met on on livejournal. com, knew each other for years, and became very close. He flew out to Texas, and we were married September 22nd, 2003, approximately a week after meeting in person for the first time.

He returned to the UK shortly after our wedding, and we spent seven months gathering the necessary money and paperwork for me to move there. I flew to Los Angeles to speak to the British consulate in person, and as soon as I had gained the necessary visa, boarded a plane to the UK.

What she was expecting:

In terms of the culture, I think in some ways I was expecting the Scotland from the books I'd read when I was a childall about heather and fog and very polite, old-fashioned people. It surprised me a bit to learn that Scotland really wasn't all that now, but far more complex and conflicted.

What the reality was:

When I started work in the UK, I was very pleasantly surprised by the labor laws, which allow me such luxuries as 30 days paid holiday per yearunheard of in America! Seeing Socialism in action changed my politics immediately and drastically. 

Moving to the UK also gave me the opportunity to look at my fellow Americans in a different light. It's odd feeling like part of someone's "Edinburgh tourist experience" just by walking down the street, and I can pick the Americans out of a crowd without even hearing their voices
their behavior and the way they dress most of the time gives it away.

I was surprised by the amount of changing I had to do
myself, internally. Little things like the volume at which one speaks in public, or remembering to refer to "trousers" instead of "pants", or knowing the difference between "a sandwich" and "a roll". Adjusting to the different foodtrying some things like haggis, and discovering it didn't taste so bad after all. 

The most rewarding part:

Gaining different perspectives, and broadening your view of life. The fact that I live in a beautiful, ancient, cultured city doesn't hurt, either.

The toughest part:

Learning to think like a British person. The way you move, the way you dress, the way you speak all adds up to an observer to give them a picture of who they think you are. I had a lot of people assuming I was a tourist in the early days! I've become a lot more conscious of my behavior, especially in public.

What family and friends had to say:

Most wished me the best, but a few did say that they didn't expect my marriage to last because of our cultural differences. How wrong they wereJohn and I have been married for three years now, and all's well so far!

Any plans to return home:

No. I intend to gain British citizenship, and live in the UK permanently. It's a better life here.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

I think the main thing when moving to another country is to be friendly and open-minded, willing to try new experiences. Don't expect it to be the same as your home country, because it won't be, even if it's just USA to UK.

In terms of safety, in another country what may seem to be a bad neighborhood may actually be perfectly safe if you know what you're doing. Copy the locals, try to blend in as much as possible. Buy clothing in the country you are going to even if the culture's not all that differentfashions and materials may be.


 

Nicole Jakobsen, 26, homemaker, married

Moved from: USA

Moved to: Denmark

 

 


What prompted the move:

I was sick and tired of life in the US and wanted to make a change. My then fiancé had his own home (I was sharing a flat with two other people) and had a larger income than I was making at my job in the states.

What she was expecting:

Relative ease in finding a job in a field in which I was qualified, that life would only be moderately different from life in the US, that Danish people were cosmopolitan, that there were a broad variety of choices in everything from restaurants to products, that adapting to life here would not be very difficult.

What the reality was:

The reality was vastly different from what I expected. I have yet to find a job in a field in which I am qualified. Life here is nowhere near like life in the US in regards to convenience/ways of doing things/outlooks on life/etc. Danish people are not very cosmopolitan (outside of Copenhagen, of course). Danish people as a whole are not very immigrant friendly and, in fact, there are political parties whose platforms are mainly based on the fact that immigrants are Public Enemy #1. There are not a broad variety of choices in this country for much of anything, adapting to life here has been very difficult, living here has played havoc on me physically, emotionally and psychologically.

The most rewarding part:

Learning a new language and learning about a new country and their way of life

The toughest part:

Having to deal with all of the immigration requirements, having to put up with all of the discriminatory attitudes toward immigrants that the natives invariably will have, having to get used to doing without a lot of things that simply don't exist in the country that you can't just ship over, having to get used to the reality that you are the minority here.

What family and friends had to say:

They were all very supportive of my decision.

Any plans to return home:

No.

Tips for other women who want to move to another country:

Learn everything you can about the country you want to move to before making the movefrom the most mundane of things you might never think to ask (like what sort of products they carry in the supermarkets or whether or not homes usually have air-conditioning) to what sort of waiting lists you have to endure to get a scan done at a hospital to what the job markets are like for foreigners to the immigration laws to the cost of living. And make sure you have a job lined up over there first. Never move blind.
 


 

Yada Treesukosol, 27, Ph.D. student, single

Moved from: Australia

Moved to: Japan, USA

 

 

What prompted the move:

When I was in high school in Australia, I took Japanese as a foreign language course. I visited Japan on a school trip for two weeks and wanted to find a way to spend more time there after I graduated from high school. At first, I thought a few months to a year would be ideal so that I could learn more of the language and about the culture and also simply experience living in a foreign country. I think that coming from an English-speaking country like Australia, even though it is very multicultural, we don't make as much of an effort to learn foreign languages. I especially realized this after meeting many multilingual Europeans while living in an international dormitory in Japan. I looked into ways I could go to Japan and got a scholarship from the Japanese government (Monbugakusho undergraduate scholarship), which is for five years. The first year, I lived in an international dormitory and studied intensive Japanese among other things and then the other four years I went to a Japanese university and got my Bachelor's degree.   Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I began working in scientific research in one of the laboratories. I enjoyed the research and so I stayed in Japan for another two years on a postgraduate scholarship from the Japanese government.

When I graduated, I considered where to go next. I decided to come to the University of Florida in the USA since the laboratory here was doing research that I was interested in and the Ph.D. program here gives many career-developing and learning opportunities.

What she was expecting:

What excited me about going to Japan was learning the language and culture. I anticipated a lot of cultural differences.

Coming to the US, I didn't expect as many cultural differences and thought I knew what differences there were from my preconceived ideas from my previous short visits and especially with all the coverage in the media, music and movies. Work-wise, I was expecting to step into a very scientific and academically stimulating environment.

What the reality was:

The cultural differences that I wasn't prepared for in Japan were the subtle cultural nuances and mannerisms. Those are the intangible things that are more difficult to describe but that you definitely experience living in Japanese society. You can read about how to greet, what to eat and how to enter someone's home but you can only learn from experience things like group dynamics, workplace hierarchy and societal obligations.

It may have been also due to the time of my life that I moved, but something that I learned that surprised me was my sense of being Australian. It wasn't until I moved away and looked at the country and culture that I had taken for granted from outside and through questions that non-Australians that I met asked that I started to both question and appreciate things about the environment I grew up in.

What surprised me about moving to the US was that there are more cultural differences than I had anticipated. Again, it is not the more obvious differences like accents and spelling, but the thinking that is reflected in things such as large meal portions at restaurants, drive-through pharmacies, the weekend when parents help their college freshmen children move into their dorms and tail-gating before college football games.

The most rewarding part:

It has opened up my world! It sparked my interest in traveling and I would like to learn more foreign languages. I have friends who are literally all over the world and I've learned not only about Japan, but other countries and cultures, and have a healthy appreciation for Australia, too.

The toughest part:

Being in Japan, the hardest thing was the different language and culture. Since I was in a Japanese university, most of my friends and those around me were Japanese, which was great for immersing into Japanese society, but at times also tiring.  Even if I could understand why something was done the way it was, there were times I found it illogical. What I learned, of course, was that it wasn't illogical per se, but just different to what I was brought up thinking.

The day-to-day living in Japan or the US is not difficult though. What I envy about my friends is that they are close to home. When there are events like friends' weddings or a relative's birthday, it is not as easy to drive or fly home for the weekend!

What family and friends had to say:

It was difficult to leave and have that physical distance.  When I went to Japan, I was fresh out of high school and we didn't know anyone in Japan so my family was apprehensive, but at the same time knew it would be a great life experience for me.

When I decided to move to the USA after Japan, they shook their heads and said, "It looks like she's never coming home."

Any plans to return home:

One day. Being away from Australia has made me both question and appreciate many things about Australian life. I love Australia! But at the same time, while I still have the opportunity, there is so much more of the world I would like to see and experience.

Tips for other women who want to move to  another country:

Have a purpose and move into your new environment with an open mind. Otherwise, I think you'll be disappointed that things aren't as you expected, and instead of the cultural differences being interesting, you'll inevitably perceive them as aversive.

 

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