Our correspondent in Brazil shares her experiences of relocation and offers helpful tips as well as motivational thoughts.
I just recently moved to a new city again. We all know the drill of moving, right? Be it to another house in the same city, to another city or to another country: when thinking about moving we all think of work, work and more work. To pack all our belongings, cancel or change services like internet and telephone, move in and unpack everything in the new place is a lot. It can take weeks of our lives to just settle into the new place. If you bring kids or pets with you, the move can be even trickier. A few weeks ago, we had a pool on twitter asking you how many times in the last five years you moved for work. The majority of you, 66% answered that you moved for your job 1-3 times in the last five years, followed by a (lucky?) 31% who did not move for job reasons in the last five years.
After my first graduation, I moved to another city to continue my studies, joining academia and starting my master’s degree. I lived in Araraquara (São Paulo state) for four years of my life. Owning nothing more than my bed and a study desk, and sharing houses with friends was a great adventure and experience. When I joined my PhD research group in 2012 I had to move again, to Bauru, another city nearby. Living alone required me to buy a few more things, as in Brazil apartments generally come unfurnished. I stayed in this city during two years when I had to moved again, this time to another country.
In 2015, I moved to the USA to finish my PhD there. Moving to another country was definitely a great experience. I didn’t take with me more than the necessary: one single bag with my favourite clothes, shoes and documents. I wasn’t staying long enough to make it necessary to take more than that. Moving to a new country was the most different and biggest change I ever took on. I wasn’t just moving to another city in my own country: I was trying to trust someone I never saw face to face, when renting a place to live: I was trying to create a whole new life. I arrived in a country where I wasn’t fluent in speaking the language and where I knew no one. It was awesome!
Now, I have moved once more for work, or in an attempt to find a good position that can fit with my PhD. Not an easy choice, but sometimes, we have to take risks in order to achieve something better. The art of moving begins with planning, as Kathy Mckay shared in her blogpost with an interesting checklist.
If you are moving to a new city or new state, is a great time to clear out your belongings. Donate clothing, books, toys. Throw away that bunch of papers that aren’t even relevant to your research or life anymore! If you are an academic of any kind, you know what I am talking about, right? How can we accumulate so many papers?! It took me an entire afternoon to decide what was important to keep and what was destined for recycling.
Usually I start to pack the things I use least, like books and papers. Lastly, clothes and kitchen utensils. To pack everything all by yourself is a hard work that can take weeks. Luckily, I don’t own much, so for me it usually just takes a week. (Or possibly most gets done on the day before!)
You arrive at the new place and all around you there are boxes and suitcases: chaos!
WHAT DO YOU UNPACK FIRST?
I heard that in England last and first thing to pack and unpack are the kettle! I think that in Brazil, we would say it’s the utensils to make a good coffee! It helps of course, if your boxes have been labelled with what is inside them. When you pack, you think that you will remember what is in each box or case, but your brain will be full of other things by the time you come to unpack!
Next thing would probably be what you will need straight away. Bedsheets to sleep? Your wardrobe? I can’t feel like I am even approaching normalcy while my clothes and accessories aren’t in the right place! Then come books and decoration. What works for you?
In Brazil, if you are moving to your first apartment or house, your friends and family can throw you a housewarming party, where you can get gifts necessary for your house. Little details that sometimes we forget to buy amidst the chaos.
Confession time: I can’t really function (and I really get grumpy and frustrated) when I have no access to the Internet. While still in my old place, I tried to set up the internet service to install as soon as I moved, but unfortunately, these things aren’t so simple. Was I too used to solve my problems via email or phone? Anyway, once I had moved, I tried to find the perfect internet service (or as perfect as it can be) and I booked a day to have it installed.
Do you need change your phone number? Phone services? If so, it could be important to do it right after moving: I didn’t change it in the first two days and got my phone data cut off! Annoying: remember I was still without Wi-Fi, and this made it more difficult to resolve other problems, as everything nowadays is online. The same thing happened when I moved to USA: I was so lost in the first days that it took me almost a week to get a new phone and US number, and needless to say, everything got way easier once I had it. So, ideally get your phone and Internet access as soon as possible!
FIND NEW PEOPLE
It can be lonely and scary to be new in a whole different place. Joining groups in Facebook, or finding fellow expats from your own country who already made the leap to your destination country can help. Finding people on Instagram made it easier for me to find new people in my new place. When I moved to USA, I found, in a Facebook group of Brazilian PhD’s, a new friend that ended up being my roommate, and then she introduced me to a new group of friends. To find people from your own country, who speak your native language and share your traditions helps to ease any homesickness. But don’t forget to try make new friends with the locals, even if it is a hard, hard work to do. Work colleagues can be a good source of new friends. Accept their invitations for happy hours or parties. And if they don’t invite you, make the first step and invite them!
Now, in this new city that I am living in, even though I have family here, I am in search of my own friends. I have photography as a hobby and I already found a group of people who also share the same passion and we just met this week for talks and photos. Maybe it’s more your scene to go to the gym or a Yoga class, or perhaps a bakery class. It doesn’t matter what, but you just need to get out and try to make friends: it will help you to settle into the rhythm of your new life. I believe that once we get into a “routine”, life get easier.
DON’T BE AFRAID!
Lately, more and more people are forced into relocation because of work. Travelling the world in search of the dream job. But still, I know a lot of people that are afraid to move (maybe some of the 31% in our poll who haven’t moved). It is daunting to leave your comfort zone, to be far from friends and family, even if for a short period of time. I can understand that each person is an individual and what works for me, might not work for you. But is an adventure. A moment of growth, of opportunities that will not come otherwise. It is difficult and hard work, and raises a moment of anxiety that takes time to fade away, but it is also a moment of self-discovery, and of memories that will last a lifetime. My advice is to do it: accept the offer, take the big jump, open your wings and fly!
Image credit: images by the author on Instagram.