It’s been a while since I left my previous job and I’ve noticed a huge change in my mood, routines and overall wellbeing. Most days, I do miss my paycheque and the guaranteed income that would exhilarate me at the end of every month, but I’m glad I exchanged that for this new life of thrilling uncertainty.
I left with a mindset knowing that this journey wasn’t going to be easy, but I was ready to jump through all the hurdles. I was expecting to fall and get away with a few scrapes to the knee, yet the reality of it all extends far beyond what I was ready for.
Dealing with foreign bureaucracy
As an expat, it’s always necessary to learn your rights as to what you can do in the country during the unemployment period. It may depend on the passport or visa you hold, so the first thing to do before deciding to leave your job––or even after leaving it––is to have a talk with the immigration officers on your current status.
Dealing with the bureaucracy is always tricky and it might not be a friendly experience, so remember to be upfront and truthful with your intentions. My experience is that immigrate agents rarely get the truth out of people without asking, so they’ll appreciate any ounce of honesty.
If that means having to leave the country, it’s best to know, rather than to look over your shoulder daily for the dreaded day to arrive.
Staying home is something you eventually get used to
I won’t lie, the first few weeks of staying home weren’t pleasant. I planned to quit my job for about a year and the idea of having to stay indoors always set me back. However, I’ve learnt that boredom—with a ticking clock on potential deportation—can be very fruitful.
My financially stable gap year (that’s what I call this phase of my life), mixed with isolation and boredom had the ability to make me jump off the couch and go “Right, this is it, I’m off to do something!” I soon realized that once you take that step, that surge of inspiration will make the worries go away for a little while. Ideas come up after you’re done procrastinating because inspiration is always lurking around the corner.
The best thing is, you now have time to conquer it all and put your ideas into fruition. The boredom comes and goes, but your attitude defines what it does to you.
There's more competition when you’re foreign
Job hunting is a lot harder when you have many locals (and if you’re in Europe, EU citizens) to compete with. I’ll admit this to be true: there are times where you’ll feel that the system is against you, or that you’re not worthy of consideration and that’s okay. Pick yourself up, find where your strength lies and use that as an advantage over everyone else. Maybe take time to do some freelance work and update your skills with the ample time that you have.
Sometimes a little foreignness doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially in the multiculturalism work environment that many companies are starting to focus on.
Social interaction is a balancing board
Staying at home all day or working alone will make you miss having a community, but it also isolates you. Some days you’ll be desperate for some human interaction, but that means dealing with many questions about your life and plans—ones that you get tired of answering all the time. People can be curious, but they can also be judgmental. That’s when being alone feels like the best solution. Being on your own can be so kind and therapeutic that you might end up building walls around you without intending to.
Here’s my tip: Keep your circle small and friendly. Find a good balance by determining what is truly good for you and don’t feel pressured to answer questions you don’t want to.
The worry is never only yours
Lastly, there will be a community of people who support your decisions and try to lend a helping hand, but they will also be just as worried as you are (if not more). There’s no way to prevent this, so learn to appease them by keeping them in the loop. Update them on your progress and the steps you’re taking to provide them with a little assurance. This will not only ease the worries on your end, but it will provide a little relief especially for the family that’s far away from you.
Focusing on yourself is important, but so is having a community rallying with you.
Most importantly, if you’re like me and have never had the opportunity to experience a gap year after university, enjoy this time! Travel, pick up a new skill and embrace some good changes.Add this article to your reading list