Considering moving abroad for postgraduate education or more? Here is a step-wise guide that helped me through my journey.
I am a 27-year-old girl who moved to Cork, Ireland from a small town in the heart of India. Since this was the first time I moved (not just out of the country but out of my parents’ house), I realized the difference between being an adult and taking responsibilities vs everything I had been doing until now.
The following are a collection of stories and experiences that I have accumulated throughout the process.
Disclaimer: The websites/blogs/trade names mentioned in this blog are purely the author’s personal choices/experiences. They are not advertisements for any commercial purpose what-so-ever.
Before applying for any job/research positions, I always ask myself- How motivated am I for this position? Would I see myself interested in the project after 10 years?
Even if the answers to these questions are extremely positive, there is a possibility that you won’t get called for an interview. So, to increase the chances of getting the job and facing fewer rejections, always read what the employer expects from the candidates and mould your CV accordingly. But, NEVER lie on your resume. Take a look at some stats:
The interview is always about ‘you’, and it is your time to shine! A little ‘humble’ bragging goes a long way. In case the interview is face to face, wear formals (preferably light or pastel toned); a formal jacket is optional but advisable, I think being slightly overdressed is better than being unprepared. If the interview is through skype, check your camera and microphone before (with well allotted time to replace) the interview and if you are from India, like me, have an alternate internet connectivity available in case of power cuts or network troubles.
The interview questions are usually based on your CV, it’s best to know your CV front to back. Interviews can be stressful but try to smile and show your personality. It’s also advisable to read about the organisation you are applying to and ask questions at the end of the interview, which reinforces the motivation. The interview works both ways, it’s very much for you to decide if you want to work with them or not too!
If everything goes well, you should receive an email with acceptance offer, which, if you accept, will be followed with a series of emails and paperwork.
Here is a great blog contribution providing excellent tips for your next interviews.
Once you have all confirmatory paperwork in place, the real hard work begins. Those of us moving continents usually have to go through the entire visa process, which sometimes seem like sorcery. You need to be smarter than Dumbledore (or Gandalf the white for the nerdy ones amongst us) to get through it, but trust me when I say this, Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins won’t cut it!
The official websites or embassy websites always have all the information needed but sometimes they might not be updated. I joined Facebook groups before I moved to Ireland. These groups usually have members already residing in the destination country who have been through this process, and they usually are very helpful. Also if you have any confusion regarding any detail, you can email the embassy directly and they will surely get back to you within a few days. Sometimes even though the university won’t ask for it, English language ability test is compulsory for getting the visa. TOEFL, iBT and IELTS are the common ones accepted globally. There are excellent YouTube videos for preparing all sections of the exam, and sample papers are abundantly available (in internet for free).
Lock, Stock, Oh my God!
The terror of packing still haunts me. Ireland was really unknown to me, so I packed everything in sight. I remember even packing laundry detergent, which at the time seemed like a bright idea. I cannot stress this enough, pack only the essentials!
Ireland is expensive, here is a list of most expensive countries to live in. One thing that I realized after I moved is that clothes are all made in south east Asian countries, but the price is at least 5 times more. Groceries and eatables are abundantly available in the west, you can enjoy mangoes and watermelons all through the year (although the taste may vary). If you are looking for something particular from your own country, there are regional stores like Indian/Asian Store, Lebanese, Polish stores etc., which will cater all your local food needs.
Grocery costs are comparable to India for me but eating out is expensive. It is advisable to make a budget for accommodation, bills, groceries, transport etc. before moving. There are online websites which can help you with this.
While packing, be aware of the total weight of your suitcases and my advice is to keep at least a couple of kilograms lighter than what the airline requires. For overweight luggage, airline companies charge insanely high commission. A few airlines like Emirates provide student discounts which allows students to check in around 45 to 50kgs per person on one-way ticket to destination.
Are we there yet?
You have everything ready to go and the excitement slowly gets replaced by anxiety mixed with a little sorrow. It’s hard leaving your room, your bed and comfort, moving to someplace entirely new and getting used to it. Housing is always tricky, before moving it’s advisable to have a temporary accommodation in place for a few days/weeks (hostels, Airbnb, hotel) giving you time to look for a suitable long-term accommodation.
Renting situation is different in every country, there are fake advertisements and hackers preying on students moving abroad and looking for accommodation. I faced a couple of situations where a certain person would claim they have an apartment in country A (advertising hotel like pretty place with surprisingly affordable rent) but they live in country B, they work in a big company and cannot be there to physically show you the place but if you make a deposit they will mail you the key to the apartment. NEVER transfer money to anyone based on an email. Here is one such example.
Here we are, at the very end. No article can ever completely prepare you for this mammoth change. There will be times you when you are happy with your decisions but there will also be extremely challenging days when you will question everything. On the hard days, take a step back, rewind and just focus on the bigger picture! It is never easy moving, leaving your friends and family behind however, throughout your journey you will experience different cultures, make amazing friends and you will definitely end up a lot wiser. As Miley Cyrus aptly sang “Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb”.
These were my few words of wisdom, someday you will be on the other side, hopefully behind some fancy computer screen, writing about your own experiences.
About the blog
Being a PhD student in a European training network is a life-changing adventure. Moving to a new country, carrying out a research project, facing scientific (and cultural) challenges, travelling around Europe and beyond… Those 3 years certainly do bring their part of new - sometimes frightening - but always enriching experiences.