This is a guest post by the lovely Kareemah from Hijabiglobetrotter.com. I receive a lot of emails from sisters who would like to move somewhere alone, but are afraid or not sure how to approach it. Well, Kareemah moved all the way from the US to lovely Spain, so she definitely knows hows it’s done. Check out her advice.
September 2009, I was in the 11th grade and sitting in my very first Spanish class. I had dabbled with other languages in the past-Arabic, French- but never really committed. This time, I was determined to become fluent in Spanish. During my last two years of high school, one of the unforgettable memories I took from my Spanish class was when my teacher described her year abroad in Spain. Siestas, Fiestas, Paellas etc. A dream had been sparked.
Time passed and I was now a freshman in college. Before freshman, the year begins it is required for every incoming student to participate in a 9hour orientation. I slept off during the entire orientation process except for two parts: game show and study abroad program. My dad was by my side then. When I told him of my dream, he told me inshaAllah. Throughout my college years, I had this burning desire to fulfil my dream. My Dad wasn’t really buying the idea and thought it was best I focus on my studies; my Mum supported me but said I had to save money. I tried saving something. Every year I would go to the study abroad office hoping there was a program within my budget but I just never had the financial means. Eventually, I gave up on my dream.
My plan then changed to graduate, get a job, go to grad school and start a family. I was in the process of this; I got an internship with a reputable company in my town but I kept feeling empty. I did my assigned tasks but something continuously nagged me that I wasn’t reaching my full potential. One day, my Mum and I visited a family friend and she showed us pictures of her trip with her son to Spain. I don’t know if it was her good story telling skills or the colourful pictures but my dream suddenly re-ignited. I saved the money from my jobs, did research on Spain for an entire year, applied to several jobs in Spain etc. I now had a different plan after graduation.
So how did I do it? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty!
Research Research Research
I can’t emphasise this enough. It should be your first and continuous step when thinking of living abroad. There is nothing like too much research. The more you know, the better prepared you are for your destination. Topics to start researching: Country of interest, Custom of Country, History of Country, If your goals in life matches the country of interest, Safety, Islamic friendliness. And the list continues according to you.
There are tons of programs out there that allow you to travel abroad. Here are the lists of a few:
- Teaching English: CIEE, CAPS, Auxiliares de Conversaciones, BEDA, ALA, Green Heart Travel,
- Research: Fulbright, University Program
- Volunteer: Green Heart Travel, Peace Corps, GoAbroad, Work away
- Au pair: Au pair world
For more information regarding working in Spain check out my blog post: So you wanna work in Spain?!
This was my biggest challenge. I believe the same could be applicable to others planning to live abroad. The good news is that there are several ways to fund your expenses. Here are some:
- Saving from jobs- This was the route I took. I saved for my trip through my summer job and internship.
- Scholarship programs from Fulbright (U.S.), British Council (U.K), University’s Study Abroad
- Au pair- Covers only living expenses.
Some of us are guilty of not checking our local news not to talk about international news. If you are serious about living abroad, you have to know what’s going on in the world especially the country in mind. You would want to know the political state of the country and how safe it is for a local or foreigner.
Connecting on Social Media
This was my lifeline for quick and reliable information. Find groups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media. Connect with individuals and ask them questions.
Telling your parents about your goal and having them support you could be challenging. Every parent is different but all parents care about the welfare of their child. Tips:
- Tread carefully. Help them understand your goal and its benefits
- Show them your commitment
- Involve them in the entire process
- Inform them where you will be staying and emergency contact numbers.
Today marks my 9th month here. Alhamdullilah, everything eventually worked out. I got a job, got an apartment, made many friends and so forth. How do I feel about travelling/moving alone especially as a girl? I say just do it! I never felt in danger through my travels as a single female. I would say Europe is pretty safe in general for any type of traveller. However; do an intensive research on safety, culture, language, history etc. before heading to the airport. Despite what is being portrayed in the media or in our communities, most parts of the world are safer than we think. When travelling, be vigilant and always ask the locals about the environment you are in.
Whenever people hear my story, they say “Wow you are so brave and fearless”. The truth is that when I was embarking on my journey I was very afraid. In my own experience being brave doesn’t mean you are fearless. It means that you have decided to control that fear and just do it. ~ I promise!, Nike didn’t sponsor this post~
If I were to repeat my decision would I do it again? Absolutely!