Making the Decision to Move Abroad – My Personal Experiences

For the last two to three months, there has been a bit of silence on this blog because, let’s face it, sometimes life gets in the way. My husband and I have been dealing with a lot of changes and big decisions, so I had to step away to get everything in order. Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to give an update on our recent big changes and our experiences making the decision to move abroad (in my case, for the second time). I hope it helps anyone who is looking to make a similar decision!

I will start from the beginning, way back to 6 years ago when I first made the decision to live abroad. That way you get a little bit of context.

Deciding to Move Abroad for the First Time

When I graduated from university, I had the strong urge to travel. I was lucky enough to have visited many places already with my mom, and she instilled the travel bug in me. However, my mother wanted me to go straight to graduate school and get my Master’s, but I was already wary of paying more pricey tuition. I also figured that this was the best chance I’d ever get to travel the world before I settled down into a career and perhaps have a family one day.

I worked two jobs for that year after graduation, saving up as much money as I could. Meanwhile, I researched various programs that’d allow me to live and work abroad. I had decided that instead of just backpacking for a few months, I wanted to stay for a longer period and really get to know the place I had chosen.

I was first accepted into a program in China, but… I chickened out. The worst part was that I had already made it Facebook official and everything, and then just quietly backed out. I felt awful about letting fear get the best of me, and I decided then and there that I wouldn’t let that happen again.

In front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

A few months and a ridiculous amount of research later, I found the program in Spain that I ended up joining. When I first found it, I knew that that was it. I had to take it. I went through the interview and all of the paperwork, bought the plane ticket, and off I went. I was terrified, but also incredibly excited (click here for more on this experience). I remember bawling at the airport as I said goodbye to my mother, wondering what in the hell I was getting myself into.

But something changed after I got my boarding ticket and passed through security. This was the moment I had been waiting for, and I was so thankful that I didn’t let the fear control me once again.

Living as an Expat in Spain

Fast forward many months to when I had already settled into life in Spain. I was on my ‘gap year’ of sorts, enjoying living abroad and making the most of every moment. I fully intended to move back home to California after that year, perhaps get my Master’s degree, and kick off my career.

Watching a match of FC Barcelona!

But then I met a handsome Catalan man. We hit it off immediately, and although neither of us were looking for commitment and we didn’t really expect it to go anywhere (since I was set to return back to California just a few months later), we couldn’t bear not seeing what our future had in store for us. All my logic told me that this was a bad idea, but I couldn’t help myself.

I ended up coming back to Spain for another year after many weeks of consideration and arguing endlessly with myself. Because hey, who can regret living in a beautiful country even if the relationship didn’t work out? But… as it turns out, the relationship DID work out. Quite well, to say the least. I was happier than I’d ever been, and he made me experience love in a way that I didn’t even know was possible (am I being too cheesy?). To make it even better, he was the perfect travel partner. We traveled to Morocco, Germany and the Czech Republic (in addition to many small towns in Spain) just in our first year together. 

Unfortunately, at the end of my second year in Barcelona, I was forced to move back to the USA and leave the love of my life behind. We were both devastated.

Long Distance

Our plan was for him to come to America, and he worked diligently to find a job and get a work visa. After about a year of hard work, it proved impossible and he was denied the visa, effectively putting him on a black list even to come visit me as a tourist.

I couldn’t manage another year in Spain on the budget I was receiving as an English teacher (it was a special program where you lived with host families and got paid very little), so I ended up staying in California and he in Barcelona. We spoke constantly, skyped as often as we could, and tried to keep our spirits high. But long distance is hard. There were many dark days, and both of us were putting our careers on hold trying to find a way to work it out despite the distance.

By this point, he had been in his job as a programmer for over three years and was eager to get started with the next phase of his career. I was a psychology graduate looking to get started in my career, and move away from teaching (which I had many years of experience in now, but it just wasn’t my passion). Again, logic kept telling me that I had to focus on myself and my future, even if that meant leaving him behind. But the heart doesn’t always listen to logic. Thankfully, it ended up working out for me in the end.

Reunited

Part of our road trip together – San Sebastian!

After a year apart (with a 3-week road trip across Spain in the middle of it), we decided to get married. The idea had come up many times before we actually made the decision, but we had always pushed it aside. Both of us weren’t huge fans of the idea of marriage to begin with. In addition, after researching the legal process involved, it didn’t seem very romantic. Pretty much any way we did it would require us to get married in a hurry, which didn’t sit very well with me since I (like many other people I’m sure) had spent a lot of time imagining how perfect my wedding day would be.

However, after spending an incredibly long time trying to go about it in different ways, it proved impossible to find any other feasible way to be together. It had come down to letting the relationship go, or getting married. This decision wasn’t made lightly, but both of us decided that we couldn’t bear to lose each other. We were soul mates, and if we had to sign a paper in a completely unromantic way in order to be together, then so be it.

Our Wedding in Barcelona! Simple, but full of love.

I came back to Spain, since the process seemed slightly easier and less expensive there than in the States, and we went through all of the crazy bureaucracy (it might’ve been easier than in the States, but it sure as hell wasn’t easy). I was also lucky enough to find a decently paid job as an English teacher that year. Even though it wasn’t my first choice of job,  it gave us some more financial security as we continued figuring our lives out. Now that we no longer had to worry about all of the pain that comes with a long distance relationship, we could both focus a bit more on our dream careers. He had lived his entire life in the Barcelona area, and was interested in seeing how the life abroad was. I, a traveler at heart, have always been open to living in other countries, so of course I was game.

The Job Search

He was interested in advancing in his career to a different sector of software development, and I was eager to finally get out of education and into something that mixed my love of writing with my degree in psychology. After many long and thoughtful discussions, we made a deal that we’d both apply to companies around Europe that interested us and the first person with a promising, well-paying job offer would take it and off we’d go.

Unfortunately, the process took a lot longer than we expected. We started seriously looking for jobs in the early spring of 2018, but were of course both working full-time, so we didn’t get to apply to nearly as many places as we would have liked. And until around late summer of that same year, we basically had no luck. To make matters worse, after that summer I was left without a stable income because I declined to continue with the language school I had been working for the year before. I knew I couldn’t sign a contract for yet another full year with our hopeful plans to move abroad still in full force.

Finally, my husband began having phone and Skype interviews with various companies, and three of them invited him for an onsite interview. Although it is uncommon, we made it so that I’d travel to these places with him so we could see if we could imagine ourselves living in the area if he was accepted. We stayed a few extra days to explore and really get to know the cities. If you find yourself to be in a similar situation, I’d highly recommend doing the same! It’s a little awkward trying to get the companies to understand that you’re bringing your spouse along, but if the company values you and your skills, they’ll understand the decision and help you out. It also shows that you’re serious about the position.

Our first business trip for one of his interviews!

I was also invited to an onsite interview, but in Barcelona. It was towards the end of the interviews my husband was having, and although my interview went really well and the position seemed super interesting and more in line with my career goals, my husband received a very promising job offer in Germany. So I declined to continue my interview process and my husband and I went about preparing to move to another country. A first for my husband, and the second time for me.

Was the decision easy? No, it was not. But the best decisions are also often some of the most difficult. It was also quite painful for me to back out of an interview process that seemed promising and was in line with my career goals, but a grand adventure had just opened up its door for us, and there was no turning back. In addition, what kind of a person would I be if I backed out of a deal that we had made together?

Making the Move

Pretty much all of December was spent packing up our bags, getting rid of junk and taking care of all of the legalities (for example, health insurance is mandatory in Germany), which is never fun. We were living in quite a big house at the time, way too big for just the two of us, and it proved quite the feat to clean, sell everything, etc. But before we knew it, we were handing back the keys, taking our bags and being driven to the airport.

Enjoying some hot wine in our new German city!

Thankfully, my husband’s company offered us a temporary place to stay for two months as we searched for apartments, so we didn’t have to worry about accommodations. But here we are, a bit over a month after moving here, still in the stressful process of finding an apartment and with the clock ticking. Looking for apartments is always a chore, but even more so with the language barrier – we barely speak any German, but we’re working hard to change that!

In addition to the move, I had also been searching for jobs in our new city ever since we got confirmation that we’d be going. After many months and lots of consideration, I am happy to say that I have also landed a fantastic position that I’m very excited to start soon, much more in the direction I had been hoping for… Goodbye teaching!

Click to Pin it for later!

What’s Next

So, hence the silence here. The decision to move abroad, the chores and paperwork involved, actually moving, and getting settled in have all been weighing heavily on our shoulders. However, each day it gets a little easier, and once we finally have our new apartment and are settled in, I look forward to being able to explore the region more!

I will write another post soon more specifically about our life thus far in Germany, along with our experience on New Years Eve in our new city.

Have you ever moved abroad? What was the most difficult thing for you? The most rewarding?

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Justine Ancheta
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So happy to see you’re settling in. Everything sounds normal and right on schedule – divine time 🙂