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Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see


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On to the next big adventure!

Big changes are happening in my life this year, and I’m so excited to be able to share my news with you!

I had this vision of writing the perfect blog post, to eloquently describe what’s happening in my life right now and what changes are happening. The thing is though, my head is just too full of plans and lists and nerves to write anything coherent, so here’s the quick rundown for now:

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I first heard about Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) when I was in high school. One of our social directors took a group of us to a Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City, where we got to learn about life in camps, as well as how food rations and health work. I remember that I kept my ration card for years afterwards. (The Australian side of MSF developed this really cool interactive experience, as well!)

The notion of MSF kind of always floated inside my head after that. I went on to take various international trips, and I studied development at university, thinking that I wanted to eventually work in refugee camps but not quite sure how to get to that point, or how to work for MSF since I’m not a doctor. A few years ago, I read 6 Months in Sudan, an amazing book that just blew my mind wide open, about a doctor who spent 6 months working for MSF in Sudan. That’s when I looked more closely at who can work for MSF, and realised that there are non-medical positions in the field as well, for logisticians and administrators. I set my sights on one of these positions, and began a certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management.

In the meantime, I’ve had some pretty amazing jobs that have allowed me to develop skills in HR, administration and management – all things that MSF looks for in their field administrator. MSF holds recruitment sessions a few times a year, where you get to hear more about what they look for when they’re recruiting field staff. I went to one last November, and was heartened when they said that anyone can apply, and then you get feedback from an HR manager, telling you what’s missing from your application so that you can better prepare for next time.

So, I applied in February, with little expectations, but hoping that they would point me in the right direction in terms of what experience I still needed to gain. To my immense surprise, they got back to me pretty quickly with an interview request!

Now, after two interviews, some tests, some references, and two days of pre-training, I just got my official welcome e-mail 🙂

 

There still isn’t anything set in stone, but I have an HR manager who is looking for a contract for me, likely for a 9 month posting. I’ll most likely be going to one of their projects in central or eastern Africa, at some point in September. There’s a lot to do between now and then: wrap up the program that I’m currently working on, get a variety of shots and medical tests, drive my things across the country, and a million other little things that are involved in going overseas for a 9 month contract!

So, as you can imagine, my head is pretty full. I’ll write more soon, about the preparation process, but now that I’ve officially told my employers that I’m leaving, I’m finally free to share my exciting news with the rest of the world!

 

 

 

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FAQ – Moving to a new country

I want to move to a different city/country. Where do I start?

First of all, yay! That’s great news. Change is great, and you’re taking the first steps on a big adventure. In my opinion, you have two options, and it really depends on the kind of person you are.

Option 1
Go! Line up a hostel or another form of short term accommodation, and just figure it out once you get there. I know that it sounds scary, but that’s what I did when I moved to Ecuador. I was going there for University and I had a couple thousand dollars set aside. I’m sure that I read about the country a bit before going, but I actually didn’t plan very much.

I turned down the homestay option offered by the university. The internet wasn’t a big deal back in 2005 and I couldn’t really set anything up in advance, so I decided to book a bed at The Secret Garden hostel for a week, thinking that I would play it by ear once I got there.

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The view from the hostel. I knew right away that I had made the right decision.

Things ended up working out really well for me. The hostel is owned by an Australian-Ecuadorian couple, and is an amazing network of expat volunteers and amazing travellers. I had been staying there for about four days when the Swiss manager told me that they were looking for volunteers who could make a month long commitment. In exchange for volunteering for 8 hours a day, volunteers got free accommodation, meals, drinks, and Spanish lessons. What a deal! I took the position right away – sure, it was hectic with my school schedule, and the living situation was sketchy (volunteer accommodation has improved since!), but it was free and allowed me to get to know the city and country like I never would have otherwise. About three weeks into my volunteering stint, the same Swiss guy told me about an apartment just behind the hostel that had a room for rent for $100 a month. I ended up living there for the rest of the year. It’s where I met Marina, who is one of my best friends to this day – last fall, I flew to England to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. Throughout the year, I continued to work part time for the hostel, helping them run tours throughout the country and running reception when they needed me.

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This is where I ended up living for the year

In all honesty, I think that my year in Ecuador spoiled me for all further travel. Somehow, I left with the assumption that things were always this easy – you don’t need much money, or planning, and things will just work out.

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that this isn’t the case, when I tried to move to London. I was more prepared – I had temporary accommodation and a job. However, I left with almost no money, and no knowledge of how expensive life was in London. The job that I had did not pay enough for me to live in London, and my temporary accommodation was too far away for me to find a second job. I ended up moving back to Canada after 6 weeks. Which leads us to option 2!

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No wonder I couldn’t afford to live in London – this was a transit pass for one week. Plus STD, apparently.

Option 2:

Do your research! Make sure to come up with temporary accommodation, or try to set something up in advance. Make sure that it’s not two hours away from your job (as was mine in London…) Make sure that you know what to expect in terms of not only rent, but down payment and possible furniture (as I found out when I lived in West Africa – You can read ALL about the hell of trying to find accommodation in Mali here). Try to connect with people who already live where you are moving to, to see if they can help you with anything. Make sure that you have a backup option for work. Most of all, just make sure that you have enough money in case things don’t work out – and don’t forget about cost of living! I was more prepared for my move to British Columbia than I was for anything else, but I didn’t think of everything. When I originally budgeted for my life here (what a foreign concept to me!) I didn’t realize that you pay monthly for health insurance, and that car insurance is much, much higher than it is in Québec.

In all honesty though, I would probably go straight back to Option 1, again and again. It’s more exciting, and being thrust into new situations with less of a support system pushes you out of your comfort zone. In the future, I’ll just make sure that I have enough money to survive in my new city!

Is there anything else that you are wondering about? Comment below, and I will try to answer and travel-related questions that you might have!