The Truth About Moving Abroad to Ireland
Alright everyone, grab your cup of tea or your glass of wine because this is about to be a longer post than normal. I have tried to remember relevant questions/remarks that were said to me by (typically rude) people about moving and living abroad. I will try my best to address all of this in the most cohesive way. I am doing this because I would have loved something like this when I was moving to know I wasn't alone. Because, guess what? As exciting as moving abroad is, it is actually also freakin’ scary and difficult.
I grew up in Florida, so I went to different Caribbean islands growing up, but it wasn’t until college that I actually went ‘abroad abroad’ when I visited Europe. Technically, going to the Bahamas was going abroad but it didn’t really feel like it. I count coming to Europe at 20 as my first real experience abroad. I first visited Ireland and the UK on a summer study abroad trip through my undergraduate institution. Long story short, I fell in love with Ireland, more specifically Dublin, during this time and I told myself I would live there one day. Please note I spent maybe 72 hours in Dublin and made this massive life decision. Lolllll. I also understand how annoying and cliché this is, being like, omg, study abroad changed my life! But in all seriousness, it did, and it is why I am such a huge advocate that everyone spends some sort of time abroad.
I still had a year and a half left on my undergrad degree so moving to Ireland was not an option for a while. What I did during this time was a never-ending amount of research into moving abroad. Not all the fun stuff either – things like cost of living, accommodation, cultural differences, and of course, how to legally immigrate. I was obsessed with moving to Ireland during this time. Just ask anyone who was in my general vicinity once I returned from my study abroad. It was all I talked about and I told people I was moving here before I even had a solid plan to get over.
So, how did I end up in Dublin? Graduate school. I always knew that I wanted to continue my studies to a postgraduate level, so I began looking for Master’s degree courses. I looked at everything from Political Science to Globalization to Marketing (y tho), and eventually found my dream program – Irish Studies. I applied to 3 schools offering the course and when I was accepted to my number 1 choice the deal was done. The downsides? I had to wait 8 months to move, and tbh, the rude questions and comments that followed.
OKAY, so first up of the most annoying things that was said to me repeatedly when I told people I was moving was “OOOHHH bet you’ll find a nice Irish guy and fall in love!” I am taking a guess here, but I am going to assume that guys who move abroad for study or work don’t hear something to this degree about 98% of the time. I found this comment to be demeaning because I was moving abroad to study at a higher level and to explore a new culture/ country, not to find a husband. Just please do not ever say something like this to anyone you ever know, meet, or come across that is moving abroad for their education. It is rude, plain and simple. After this rant though I guess I should let you know that I did find a nice Irish guy and fall in love. But that was not the purpose of my move!
The other really aggravating comment? “Why are you moving abroad? Is America not good enough for you?” People will phrase this in plenty of different ways but it all basically ended with asking me why America wasn’t good enough for me. America WAS good enough for me. But beyond the experience of living abroad, financially it made more sense to do my MA in Europe. I completed my degree in one year compared to the two or three it takes at home. Also, even with paying the international student fees, I could get my degree for a decent price. The cost of my course + my living expenses for the year was cheaper than one year of tuition for graduate school most places at home.
Once I was in Dublin the biggest mistake I made and still sometimes beat myself up over, was spending too much time in my room alone talking to people back home. I was constantly messaging and Facetiming with people at home and not fully giving myself over to socially integrate here. My program was small, and my classes didn’t have many people, so I already was finding it a bit difficult to make new friends. Because I was finding this hard, it was easy to retreat to my room and call friends in America. I slowly made friends, but as is the norm in Ireland, most of my friends emigrated. In terms of opportunities, there aren’t many in Ireland. Especially compared to back home. I know I can’t compare the two because Ireland is teeny-tiny compared to America, but I understand why people leave. So, I had finally made some pals, and they all left. Sweeeeet.
Why/how am I still here? Easy – the nice Irish guy I met and work. First things first, Ireland has a scheme called the Third Level Graduate Scheme that allows students to remain in the country to find work (in the hopes of sponsorship!) without needing a work permit or to apply to continue their education. I won’t get into all the nitty gritty details but if you’re interested in the scheme, click here. When I finished my degree, you were allowed one year to remain in Ireland, but this has now been increased to two. This is an amazing opportunity as many other countries expect students to leave within 30 days of the completion of their degree. Stressful! Anyway, I found a job that let me work for my year and then sponsored me once my Third Level Graduate Scheme was set to expire. I want to stress that writing this paragraph now makes it seem easy to find a job, let alone find a job that is willing to sponsor you. It was not easy and there was a lot of stress and crying involved; in the job search itself and the permit application. As for the nice Irish guy? I did something I said I would never do and I ‘moved’ for a boyfriend. I was already here so it wasn't technically a move, but I didn’t leave partially because of him. I mean, the amazing weather also kept me here too yah know? Not convincing? Didn’t think so.
I still get rude comments, but these days I don’t let them bother me. I have had less than 5 incidents with Irish people saying things such as “go home, this isn’t your country” to “you’re the reason I don’t have a job – all you foreign people come over and steal our jobs”. Sir, I’m sure it is more your amazing attitude that is keeping you unemployed rather than me specifically. People back home ask when I am coming home, and I still get the “Is America not good enough for you?” question. For some reason some people cannot accept the fact that America is not where I want to live. When I first moved abroad I think people thought I was on some sort of extended vacation and they just can’t seem to understand why I am on this never-ending holiday. But Dublin is my home. I live a normal life here and that seems to be forgotten a lot. I have rent to pay, I work 9-5, I go grocery shopping, I go to the gym…I just do it in a different country! And, after the 2016 election I am happy to remain an expat for now. But I never rule out moving back. While it can be embarrassing at times to be an America abroad, it is my country at the end of the day.
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving anywhere, even just the next town over. But know that is okay to be scared, to get upset, and to constantly wonder if you are doing the right thing. You would be a weirdo if you didn’t experience any of that! Living abroad will always be one of the best decisions I have made, and I can guarantee you will not regret doing it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go home or try somewhere else. I told myself I would do my year in Ireland and even if things got hard (which they did) I would stick it out because a year is not that long. Good thing I stuck that year out during the tough times because it led me to where I am today. I am so much more independent and responsible because of moving abroad. I was always independent and responsible but when you find yourself in a country with no family close by to call, or even a good friend, you have no choice but to fully look after yourself. Above all though, living abroad has made me appreciative. Appreciative of the life my family provided me where travel and independence were encouraged and appreciative of the people and cultures I have been able to experience through living and traveling abroad.
If you are moving (or thinking of moving) abroad and have any questions or concerns I would love to hear from you. You can leave me a comment below, send me a DM on Instagram, message me on Facebook or tweet me on Twitter, don’t be shy! I would also recommend checking out my Top 7 Questions I Get Asked About Living Abroad.