A Toolkit to Opportunities and Challenges as Global citizens

Resilience, positivity, talents and dreams

Different stories on topics relevant to global migration, checklists, top tips, reflections…it may support families moving abroad and practitioners supporting them…

Source: A Toolkit to Opportunities and Challenges as Global citizens

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Familiarisation Visit: What to do and think about?

We were invited by the company for a familiarisation week in Australia. It was a particularly challenging adventure as we had to find childcare for our three children in the UK for that week. Luckily, we had amazing support from friends. It was a busy week as my husband was attending a corporate management week and I spent the full week in full reconnaissance mode.

Planning Stage

  • full organisation of childcare for the week, including schedules of who does what and when…explanations of routines, etc. I had a full plan!
  • discussions with the company about possible dates, plane tickets, accomodation, car rental, itinerary for the week, booking flights and applying for a visa
  • looking on different websites and reading books about weather, culture, etc.
  • asking the children what they would like of their new school, visit websites of different schools, looking at pros and cons for different settings
  • Bookings of some appointments during the week: schools, nursery and potential employers by email or from a person who can help in the country

What I did during the week?

We had a very busy week, full of social events, professional activities and visits. It was quite a challenge as I have three children, in three different educational stage so I had to arrange a number of school visits. All very beneficial so I would not know what to cut out in the week. It’s long journey back so we slept then!

  • My husband and I spent one day together recovering from jet lag and discovering the area together.
  • I had a day booked with a relocation agent who showed me some rental and house to buy so that I could get a feel of the housing market in the area.
  • I visited 9 educational settings in the area of my husband’s work: 5 secondaries, 3 primaries and a nursery and picked up all the prospectus to show the children. I also took some pictures of the environment around the school to show them. I took notes as I visited the schools so that I could explain differences in the system to them. Some visits were booked prior and others not. I booked many visits during the week as I got to know the area better. Everyone was very opened and amicable to me visiting the settings.
  • I made contacts with estate agents and arranged to visit some houses.
  • Social events: We had dinner either on social events or some future colleagues most evenings. We found that beneficial to get to know everyone and create some great anchor points for the future.

What did I find helpful, glad I did?

  • We were very short with time as my husband had to go to another trip after our familiarisation visit. We debated plane journeys, shorter, longer, thinking of the children too. We found it very helpful to spend a day together before the start of the week so we could explore together initially.  I was then able to discuss my visits with him and he understood where I had been.
  • Visiting a number of educational settings and houses to really be able to make the most informed decision possible. There are lots of other schools in the area that I have visited, but could not visit them all.
  • Lots of driving about, getting to know the area. A Sat Nav was essential!
  • Speaking to future colleagues about schools and the area.
  • Going to the Tourist Information to pick up maps and lots of leaflets about future activities. More defined maps were very helpful when it came to choose a house to rent. I bought some souvenirs from a Post Office, some nice story books about Australia. We also bought some presents at the airport but these were much more expensive. These were great tool for talking about the area to the children. (Top Tips: Preparing Children for a Move Abroad).
  • Not to overload my week initially and add appointments during the week as I found  out more about the area. Allowing myself time to drive about and explore the area between appointments.
  • We managed to contact the children via video call most days or every other day, depending on time difference and activities (theirs and ours).
  • I enjoyed watching the news in a different country, interesting and different news coverage.
  • Although it was a busy week, social dinners were definitely a must!

What did I forget, should have done better?

  • I should have been a bit wiser and ask more questions about transport to secondary schools. We later found out that the schools we were keen for our oldest to go to did not have a bus route back to the house we had chosen to rent. Although we are kind of sorted now, it created some initial headaches in the planning the move stage and when we arrived here.
  • We struggled with me having a phone for the week so it made it tricky to make appointments. I eventually managed with WI-FI, emails on my iPad and the hotel phone, but it would have helpful to get a Sim card in Australia as soon as we arrived. Well, we tried but we were not successful, the system of the shop at airport was down so they could hand out Sim cards.
  • Purchasing presents prior going back to the airport. I had not been close to shops at all…

Overall, the familiarisation week was extremely beneficial and I am really glad we had that opportunity prior the move. It made it real, created some anchor points and a much easier adaptation when we arrived in the country as we know where we were going. I would certainly recommend a familiarisation week to anyone thinking of relocating a family abroad…

Are we lucky?

Many people have said to us ‘you are so lucky’. Other people have said ‘I could never do this, you are so brave’. Others have said ‘look at you, moving across the world’, ‘look at you a little girl from Mont-Joli’. People’s reactions to someone’s ‘luck’ is interesting…Would I say I am lucky? Definitely not! I never won the lottery, hardly ever won great raffle prizes…I see luck as something your name being pulled out of the hat, out of the blue, when your effort has been minimal.

I would be tempted to say that we have made our luck, or even this isn’t luck. First, we worked hard to get to where we are, qualifications, work experience, children, house, etc. There were a number of setbacks, not always simple to solve. We have had to cope with lots of emotions over the years, being away from our families, needing to be self-reliant. It has certainly not been simple doing a doctorate with young children and a husband working away.

Second, we have continued to be sensitive to new opportunities, enquire, express interests, be in the right place at the right time, building relationships, talking to people, inviting people over, putting ourselves out there in different roles for voluntary organisations… all of which have continued to make us attractive to employers as it shows resourcefulness, creativity and leadership…we could have chosen a different path. It is easy to enter a mould of being at home, ‘waiting for the bus of luck’; it is much harder to get out there create connections and have extra responsibilities. The problem is ‘the bus of luck’ rarely comes, it will go by…If you feel you are not lucky and looking for changes in your life, look around you ‘where am I needed’, ‘what could I do to help’, ‘talk to people about your dreams, talents and interests’…think out of the box…

Third, it takes a huge amount of flexibility to live in other cultures as you need to expect that normal routines, food, language, etc. will not be the same as your native country. You need to continue be open minded and discover new things every day. Yes, it is appealing and exciting but it can also be tiring because things are never familiar, it is always new. It takes adaptation to respond to these new demands and concepts. It may not be for everyone either as some people may prefer the comfort of home, routines and familiar people. Moving abroad certainly brings all the opposite. If you are thinking of moving abroad, perhaps it is important to reflect on the type of person you are to ensure that familiarity and comfort does not outweigh discovery and adventures.

Finally, we always see the positives in a situation or solutions to resolve a problem. Yes, there are moments that are particularly stressful and we experience difficult feelings too, but with communication and positive thinking, solutions eventually evolve.

So are we lucky?…well, we have been proactive, creative, flexible, resilient, self-reliant, positive. Interestingly, I was reading in Psychology Today an article about the 8 habits of Highly Lucky People (www.psychologytoday.com). The different habits explained in the text, be mindful, proactive, be opportunistic, be insightful, be flexible, be optimistic and think out of the box, particularly reflect my way of thinking about our luck…not sure it is to do with luck…

Moving Abroad: Initial feelings

After a long and rigorous interview process, the initial news that we were moving to Australia was real, we decided to go! Some people may not have a choice to move to a different country, in which case, these emotions may be experienced differently.

Initial feelings: shock, overwhelmed, excitement

I think I was in state of shock initially, full of emotions, but my head also full of things to do and sort out. I became particularly overwhelmed, trying to combine work, children and a move abroad. I felt like I was walking through a long and dark tunnel of organisation, bureaucratic processes and logistics. I kept feeling determined enough to keep everything ticking and trying to take everything in, but there was so much to take in, so much unknown… Yes we were making a decision, I never felt that I was pushed or that I was made to go, we could have decided not to go. After long debates and discussions, we felt we had to go for it, live life to the full, take a great opportunity on!

Denial, unknown and fear

Initially, I felt the move was far ahead and could not necessarily envisaged how we would make it work. I was upset to announce my leaving to my colleagues and friends. I was not ready for ‘for sale’ board to go in front of MY house…Not sure it was denial, I had agreed to move and shared this project. I felt more shock that I agreed to do this, such a long way away on the planet. As a child, I had always felt that Australia was way too far to go to (from Canada). After living in the UK for 18 years, I felt more connections to that country as we had met Australians, but my knowledge of that country was still very limited. I was not sure I would be able to live the daily life. Being there on holiday is pretty different to living daily life. Yes there were fears of not being up to it, ‘what if it fails’, ‘what if we don’t like it’, ‘what if we end up in difficulties so far away’…

What do we tell the kids?

We felt that the full interview process and initial thoughts about a potential move was not for the kids to be part of. We told the kids we were moving when it was a reality. Yes, we had alluded to it along the way, just asking them their thoughts about possibly moving one day, but we never talked about it firmly before we were not 100%. We chose a moment where we are all together to announce the news, after we had been given a go ahead from the company. We invited friends over to tell them the news too. We felt it was important for it to be a celebration. Yes, there were tears but also laughter, celebrations and talks of opportunities and exciting times ahead.

Staying strong and positive

There were moments (and still are) where kids were anxious, upset and doubting our decision as parents. There were many situations where we had to bring positive thinking into discussions. I have found that it’s important children see you do that, as parents, as it will set example and shape their ways of thinking too, showing them how to think positively.

“it will be a great adventure”

“we will be able to see this and this”

“think about the weather”

“let’s look at houses together”

“let’s look at new activities you could do over there”

“you will be able to make new friends, have friends all over the world”

“what about we set ways to speak to your friends” (technology really helps nowadays)

It has really helped to talk to the kids in this way. It has allowed the future to be present in our lives and bring excitement to our move. There are occasions where we could have dwelled into the negatives and doubts, but this had the danger to bring us all down. We remained strong, turn possibly negative thoughts into positive ones, and carried on.

So if you are moving abroad:

  • allow time for your emotions to be lived and talk these through
  • plan discussion time within your family routines
  • encourage everyone to think positively about the move and choose a new activity or projects so that it is a move for everyone

 

Moving Abroad: What to do first?

Yes, there is a lot to sort out. It can be overwhelming. Don’t overestimate the task ahead! Here are some key points about the most important things that need to be understood and sorted out very quickly and initially:

Visas

You cannot move to another country without a visa unless you have the nationality of that country so you need to get busy researching about different visas and possibilities. Different countries and visas will have restrictions so make sure you research well to avoid surprises. A Business Sponsored visa (the one we are on) is a great way to get into a country without long delays but you have to get a job in the country prior to moving and the employer has to prove that you are the best person for the job.

Health system

The health of your family is very important and should there be illness in the family, you want to be fully covered to avoid expensive charges. As part of our visa, we had to prove we had purchase private health insurance. Different countries will have different rules on using health services so it is important to research this further.

Qualifications

For my husband, his qualifications were easily transferable as he was the main person being offered employment, but for me the process is a little more tricky than this. I initially was particularly worried about my qualifications being transferred to the Australian system. I had already converted my qualifications from Quebec to an UK system so that I could complete a chartered psychologist course. I feel it has already been a very long process to get there. This process is not complete, I am waiting for some news. In the meantime, I have other projects…

It’s very important that you research carefully any transfers of qualifications to avoid surprises. Some countries do not easily allow conversion of qualifications, some other countries are more lenient and have cross country agreements.

The language in which you study can also have a big impact on the conversion of your qualifications as you may be required to do a native language test prior to practice in your field of your work.

Right to education and work

We were aware that not all countries allow a spouse to work on a Business Sponsored visa so we felt it was very important to clarify this early on. We had decided that it was crucial for me to be able to work as I had worked so hard to gain my qualifications. At this point, we needed to know restrictions about the visa, otherwise it would have aborted the move completely. We were also worried about access to education now and a few years later for the children. We were reassured that children would be entitled to education even though they are not Australian citizen.

Check any visa restrictions as early as possible as it can a huge impact on your decision to move. It is also important to envisage what may happen in a few years time, for example, where will the kids be at in terms of their education in 4 years time, as it can also have an impact on your decision. Similarly, a spouse may feel that working is not an issue at present because it is better to be at home with the children, for whatever reasons, but overtime, being in a different country and wanting to realise some specific professional goals may become an issue if the spouse cannot work. A decision to make such a big move could be initially a brilliant decision, but then becomes a nightmare because of different factors due to visa restrictions and educational opportunities.

Reevaluate life and professional goals

If you are thinking about such a big move, it may be a good time to think about what’s working well and what else you may want from your life. By reevaluating life and professional goals, it may help focus your thoughts and ideas about the move on what matters most to you. The Big Five Dreams for Life workshop really helped me think about it (http://www.bigfiveforlife.com; http://www.toutdego.ca). I was not necessarily in a place where I was reconsidering life options as I felt happy in my life, but I realised that it could be even better. It allowed me to spontaneously think about some next steps in my life and the purpose behind such a big move. It gave me sense of some future projects and put some realistic objectives for some ideas which I felt were unattainable.

Financial matters

Will you be better off living in a different country after taxes, extra costs, house prices, etc.? This could have huge implications on making the move a positive or very negative experience. Think about initial costs as well, costs of living, and hidden costs. In Australia, there are many hidden costs in schools. For example, parents pay for hiring a netbook, stationary, books and different expeditions.

Your Who’s

Do you know someone who lives in the country you are going to? Do you know a friend of a friend who may be able to put you in touch? You cannot anticipate how a little bit of advice or encouragement can go a long way. What about social media sites and blogs, you can make connections that way too…

An opportunity comes up, what should I do?

  • Keep a positive and an open mindset…We have always lived our lives where we have been curious and sensitive to new experiences and adventures. I have always said to my husband or the kids to go for it when applying for new jobs or a place in a team, ‘you never know when it will open doors’, and if it isn’t successful it doesn’t matter, it is a learning process, it will have a purpose somehow.
  • Mind mapping, checklists, pros and cons: thinking about a new adventure…it was a huge decision, even just showing interest to move to Australia, because then I was agreeing for all of us to be moving across the world. We spent many evenings, away from children’s ears, mind mapping our thoughts, making checklists of priorities and looking at the pros and cons of this new adventure. I felt it was very important to explore every eventualities, fears, anxieties, opportunities…it had to suit all of us as a family.
  • Planning: Even when we did not know if my husband had been successful during the process, we carried on planning, looking at houses on internet, searching about the area, talking to people (without disclosing we had applied for a job) who may have experienced the country in terms of holidays or to live. It kept the project moving on. It also helped form ideas as to what we would do, where we would live, finding schools, finding about costs of living, etc.
  • Talking to close family and friends…We talked to people close to us and asked what they thought about our project. This helped us continue to form our thoughts about the project such as pros and cons, etc. We received lots of positive feedback so we felt reassured about the process and the decision.