5 Things You’ll Need to be an Expat
When we thought about moving abroad to Amsterdam we first had to first figure out how it would be legally possible. Then we had to figure out the processes and logistics of it all. Nobody’s experiences are ever the same, but we looked for resources when we thought about moving abroad, so hopefully you will find this helpful if you are thinking the same thing!
I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy-peasy and all sunshine and tulips; but it can be doable if you do the proper research and knowing what to expect. Disclaimer: we are NOT professionals, we have just been through it in our own way. So here is what we think you need to be an expat:
You have to know HOW to be able to legally live abroad. For us, Sean was able to obtain Italian citizenship since he already had a birthright to it through his great-grandfather. For this process, a lot of paperwork was involved and a lot of documents needed since nobody had bothered to get citizenship after his family came from Italy. Tip: I’ve heard that Ireland is a pretty easy citizenship to get if you have a right to it.
If you can’t get an E.U. citizenship, look for other ways to get to another country! In the Netherlands, there’s a “Friendship Treaty” with the United States where if you have 4,500 Euros in the bank and a business plan, you can set-up shop here. Apparently it’s really easy to do and I’ve met a handful of Americans here who came that way. Otherwise, look at BUNAC to get to other countries temporarily. It’s a great way to see if you like a place. And my guess is that while you are there, you’ll meet people who know ways for you to stay if you want to. Do you want to get a degree? Maybe you’re in your mid-20s but want a Master’s degree. Apply to a school in another country! I did…and I got in! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go, but at least it proves it can happen (and some places don’t require the GRE…BONUS!). Some places allow you to work for 1-2 years there after you graduate with your degree.
Yes, you could just pack a bag and go, but the ways we listed above, and how we did it, takes time. It took us 4 years to get all the documents we needed for Sean to prove his right to Italian citizenship thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. And some of the documents we needed were in Sicily (Italy), New York City, and in south New Jersey. He went to each place to get the proper documents and required seals, stamps, apostilles.
Even if you don’t go the route we did. You’ll spend some time researching, applying, waiting, booking, planning, etc. If you can, set a date about a year ahead from when you want to go, then work your hardest to make it happen!
It takes money. Yes, he got a great vacation out of his trip to Sicily with his brother and friend, but we thought that was best that he didn’t waste a flight to Europe…who would do such a thing?! Apostilles (a step above a notary) cost money, and so does requesting some documents. We saved for a year and it is amazing how much you can save when you put your mind to it. And in case you were wondering, we saved even while using credit cards and paying off student loans.
When we talk money, we are talking about the flight, the shipping of your things, the Airbnb or apartment you’ll be renting, paperwork you might need to do when you get there, and of course your everyday needs. If you are able to come for a job, then this part is most taken care of for you! But otherwise, you’ll need funds until you are legally able to work, and however long it takes to find a job after that.
You really don’t want to put all the time, effort, and money into this experience to get there then turn around and go home. You have to want this. I mean REALLY want this. You might get homesick, but there are many great ways to keep in touch. But, like summer camp, don’t call home every day or you’ll never adjust to your life abroad.
Be ready for change and adventure. I say “adventure” but what I really mean is “be ready for challenges.” Do not let them scare you off! There are a lot ways you’ll learn to think differently when you’re abroad, but you will grow in this process. Let it happen. You wouldn’t have moved to an unfamiliar place if you didn’t have a little bit of curiosity and courage. Stick it out.
If you are really committed then you might not have a plan of returning to where you can from. If that’s the case, or even if not, it feels so good to downsize! We spent about 3 months sorting, selling, and donating many of our items. The sentimental things are at my mother’s house for now. I really don’t know how to ship our Christmas ornaments, but I hope to figure that out soon.
You can start with your friends and family first. See if they want to come by and take some things for a donation. Have fun with it! Do an open house kind of thing. Then see what’s left, and see what you can sell on Craigslist, Facebook, ebay, whatever. Get the most money you can for your move! Then donate the rest to a charity of your choice. Think outside the box with winter shelters for blankets, coats, hats/scarves, and maybe the SPCA for old sheets and towels for the kennels. We ended up donating to Goodwill, First Step, a library, Cats Cradle, a Prom Dress Drive, Gift & Thrift, and our offices. There is always a need for something.
I think this life is amazing. We are always learning something new and we are much closer to many of the places we want to visit. I had doubts and I was scared, but we wanted this like we’ve never wanted anything before. So, we made it happen and in 2014 our dream came true! Sometimes things do take a little luck, but it takes more hard work and research than luck. Getting there is part of the adventure!