had English been a foreign language. And three years later I am still
hearing words and expressions that I need explained.
shock was also intense from the political perspective. Northern
Ireland is known globally as a war-torn land where the politics between
the Irish ‘Catholics’ and the British ‘Protestants’ seems irresolvable.
As a foreigner people let me ask questions and challenge ideas without
judgment, but the longer I live here the less I comprehend. The interesting
thing is that while the world news makes Belfast look like Beirut, I have
never seen any troubles first-hand. Belfast has the second lowest
crime rate in Europe, so while historical bitterness may be engrained,
the society is moving forward. Belfast is a normal city buzzing with
life, business people, trendy stores and sidewalk cafes. The city
is nestled between the Irish Sea and surrounding hills, allowing for spectacular
views and daily excursions.
I am proud
to live in Northern Ireland. It is a beautiful country in development and
transition with friendly, giving people. Steven and I are now married
and settled into our own house on the outskirts of Belfast. Three
promotions later, I am still working for City & Guilds and I am also
pursuing a diploma in Holistic Medicine. I am an active member of
my local church and I help lead a Brownie troop. I would not have
believed you if you told me on that Italian train that this is where my
life would lead, but we never can know what is around the next bend.
I move abroad?
A good way
to experience life in other countries is to sign up with a study/work abroad
program with a university or with a volunteer organization. It is
worth a search if you have any qualms about the idea of simply packing
your bags, boarding a flight, and diving into life someplace new.
– contact or visit the Embassy of the country you want to move to in order
to ask immigration questions like:
– make sure you have a comfortable amount of money in an accessible account
in the USA so you can withdraw money for food, lodgings, and any unexpected
expenses once you arrive. Ask your bank if your ATM pin number can
be used abroad and whether there are any charges for this service.
If you are going to use a credit card, ensure you can pay your bills online
or that someone in the USA is trustworthy to pay your bills. If you
are planning to get a job, arrive with enough savings for at least a month
of job hunting.
How long can you
be in the country as a tourist (ie, without a Visa)?
Will it be possible
for you to work in the country?
Are there any
organizations in the country you are moving to help foreigners find accommodation,
– if you don’t want to search for a place to live before you arrive, ensure
you know of a safe hotel or hostel where you can go right after your trip.
This will give you a ‘home-base’ to start your search for an apartment
or house. If you want to try to find a place to live before you arrive,
ask the Embassy if they know of any trustworthy websites for housing in
– make sure you are comfortable with the culture in the place you are moving.
If, for example, you have strict dietary or medical requirements or if
you are of a specific religious persuasion, make sure your expectations
can be met. Spend time on the internet researching the country you
are interested in and ensure you can adapt to their culture. Also,
find out if there is anyone living in your area from the country you will
be traveling to; they could offer invaluable advice.
– get to know the currency before you go. Buy some in the USA and get accustomed
to what the coins and bills look like. Understand the conversion rate so
you know how much you're really spending. And research the cost of
the less thought-about items like electricity, gasoline, food, toiletries,
etc., as you will need to ensure you have enough money to cover these.
– learn the language (at least the basics) by listening to tapes. Or have
at least a few sessions with a person from that country.
– be prepared for unreliable phone systems. Make sure you have an
international calling card that does not have an expiration date.
Don’t count on the internet always being readily available.
– think carefully about what electrical appliances you bring along if voltages
are different. Your CD player, laptop computer, etc., will be a huge
waste of luggage space and weight if you are unable to use them.
– be prepared for challenges in finding your own place to live since landlords
may be hesitant to rent to non-citizens, especially if you are traveling
and not working. Find out where people advertise for roommates as
this may be a useful way to find accommodation.
– ensure that you have sufficient, comprehensive medical insurance that
will cover you for your entire stay. If you will be traveling extensively,
make sure the insurance covers each country.
– be aware that there are baggage weight restrictions for international
travel. If you will be carrying a lot with you be prepared to pay
a surcharge. If you are going to have belongings shipped to you from
the US, make sure you have a reliable place for them to be received.