Meet Kait, an all American girl who made the leap abroad to get her Masters Degree in London. After living in England for 4 years, she is currently residing in NYC. Kait recently founded Backpacks to Briefcases, a full service career consultancy for students and recent grads. Read about her journey abroad, and the best advice for making the move to a new country.
1. What was the scariest part of moving abroad by yourself?
For me, it was the unknown! I originally moved to Surrey, England for an exchange program my final semester of college at the University of Central Florida. Studying abroad was the best experience I have ever had, and it opened my eyes to so many new things and opened up so many new opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.
The great thing about my study abroad program was that my school organized everything for me. When I moved abroad for my internship and later began working full time, I had to deal with everything myself; applying for visas, hiring immigration lawyers, enrolling in the National Health Service, registering with the police, etc. All complicated things you would never even think about! I also believe that it’s a common misconception that if a country speaks the same language as your native country, that the culture will be very similar to your home. We know this isn’t true even amongst different states in the US, imagine the difference of being on another continent!
I was very fortunate to always have my mom there for me during my college years, so I was able to feel very independent, but also have her on call to consult about bills, paying rent, car insurance, etc. When I moved abroad, the whole system was different, so I couldn’t rely on family to help, I had to teach myself.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced living in England?
My personal biggest challenge was that my stay there always felt temporary, and I wasn’t sure how deep to let myself put down roots. It was an extremely tough decision to choose whether to stay permanently, or to leave. Although I was only supposed to be abroad for 4 months for my exchange program, I ended up staying 4.5 years! These years were filled with many ups and downs (academic, professional, legal, and personal).
It is a massive struggle to find *legal* work while abroad, because you must first obtain sponsorship from your company, and not many companies are not willing to do this, especially with entry-level positions. Sponsorship is generally reserved for hard to place, highly qualified positions in the medical, engineering, and academic fields. That being said, there are internship programs you can enroll in to make this process easier!
Choosing to uproot your life and move abroad is no easy task. Regardless of how long you plan on staying, the process is not for the fainthearted! A good way to gage if you would be well-suited to live abroad for work or school is how much you like traveling, especially abroad. If you like unfamiliar surroundings, learning as you go, and making new friends, it is definitely for you!
3. What did you miss most about home?
Chick-fil-a chicken minis, obvs! On a much more serious note, I missed the feeling of ‘being home.’ Everyone has a different definition of ‘home.’ For some, it is the house they were born in, for others, it’s their home state, still others consider it to be their college town. For me, it’s more of feeling than a physical place. That feeling of safety and acceptance, of familiarity; that’s what I missed most. While I was in the UK, I met so many amazing people, made so many new friends, fell in love, fell out of love, and had 5 different residences, but it never truly felt like home. Everything was just that much harder when abroad. I still think moving abroad was the best decision I ever made, but I can also say that I am so happy to be back in America, and am extra patriotic these days!
4. What was your favorite part of living abroad?
It’s so hard to pick just one…so I won’t! My top favorites were…
- How easy it was to take short trips to other countries. Just as easy as I would travel from Orlando to Tampa for the weekend, I could fly to France, Italy, Greece, or Spain. For SO cheap!
- How many different cultures and personalities I was exposed to through travel
- Pushing myself out of my comfort zone
- The awesome variety of food!
(Amalfi Coast, Italy)
(Arctic Circle, Sweden)
5. Are British accents on guys as appealing as they seem?
To put it simply, YASSSSSSSSSS. Beware of the charm of the British chaps 😉
6. What tips would you give to people looking to make a big move?
Always remember that nothing in life if permanent. Try new things! Move to new places. The absolute worst possible thing that can happen is that you don’t like it and you go back home. As I always like to say “I’d always prefer an ‘oh well’ to a ‘what if”…
Backpack to Briefcases is here to help you find your dream job without breaking the bank. For more tips about studying abroad, working abroad, or tips on getting hired here in the good old U.S. of A., visit Backpack to Briefcases website, Facebook, or send them an email. Best of luck, and remember the world is your oyster!