Who doesn’t want to pick up their life and work and travel across the world? It was life-changing, eye-opening and amazing. But I wasn’t mentally prepared for all the little things it takes to actually get you there. These are the things I wish somebody had told me first….
1. The whole process can take a reaaaaaaally long time
You don’t realise how much paperwork, certifications, licenses etc. you may need, until you are halfway through the process and checking the mailbox every 10 minutes. It took me 6 months to find an SLP position until I entered the country and boy did that feel like eternity. A lot of the things that you need to apply for can have a ‘4-12′ week processing time, so you have to be prepared for the ’12 week’ side of things and make sure that you sequentially target everything. There can also be a lot of running around, so it really is a ‘waiting’ game. I remember looking at the long list of things I needed to do and wanting to get to it, but they couldn’t be completed yet until a particular license came through or paperwork was processed. You will get through it, it’s just frustrating and confusing.
2. It can cost a lot of money
When you add up flights, obtaining licenses, certifications (and the little things you don’t think about like fingerprints from the police station), the cost to buy new things for your house, it is likely that this initiative could cost quite a few thousand dollars. Plus a little more. Just be flexible with your budget. I think I spent at least $5000 just to get me to the U.S. with correct licenses/certifications. Of course this will be different for your individual situation, but it’s important to have money saved and be realistic about the initial overlay of costs before you move and in the first few months.
3. You need a support people or know someone who has already done it!
You may not realise it before you decide to go ahead with this, but moving to and working in another country is really stressful. You will need someone who will let you vent your frustrations on how much things cost, how long they take and why are you doing all of this in the first place. This person will keep you on track! Facebook groups can be great to get in touch with other people who are doing the same thing as you. It would have been so much easier if I would have known an SLP who worked overseas just to give me the tips and point me in the right direction. Search on online forums and see if anyone can answer your questions as it is likely that someone out there has already done what you want to do.
4. You will still be stressed when you first arrive
This is not a holiday… I know you think it is and you’re crazy excited but you will likely have to look for a place, buy a car, get phone/internet connection and that is all non-work related. My first few months were frustrating and a little bleak because I thought it would be exciting like going on a holiday! All you have to do is adjust your expectations (and not expect that you will tick off all the great attractions in the first month) so that you don’t get disappointed. Your days off might consist of meeting with banks, filling out applications, calling the internet provider for the 13th time….
5. You will feel like a student again
All the lingo, acronyms, departments, government organisations (and spelling!) and laws may have to be relearned. You will feel like you are on your first day on student placement except that you know how to do therapy. People took for granted that I knew what an RTI meeting was, FERPA rights and the difference between a 504 and an IEP while working in the U.S. I remember sitting there nodding in agreement thinking ‘I have no idea anything you just said’. So you may go back to not knowing what anybody is talking about and feeling lost, confused and questioning if you will ever learn all of the things that are seemingly ingrained into your new culture!