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Our 2nd post from Kathryn S., a recent Fulbright Scholar and ExpatYourself’s contributing author now living in Hamburg, Germany:

I spent two months backpacking in Europe in 2011 — January and February, which I can safely say is not for the faint of heart. Moving overseas is an entirely different experience, but here is a list that I think would serve you well, no matter how long your trip lasts.

Fulbright Scholar Packing Tips

Packing can be the most stressful part of it all.

To Take: A watch. I bought mine back in 2011 for about $50. It has the time, day of the month, an alarm and glows in the dark. I don’t usually wear a watch, but travel is unpredictable and your phone may be dead or inconceivably still telling time from another continent. (Mine was doing this for two days.) Plus, if you’re running down cobblestones with a thirty-pound pack to try to catch a train, it’s not usually convenient to pull something from your pocket.

To Leave: Sixty pairs of wool socks. It’s cold in winter. I really really don’t like the cold. So between my own fear of freezing and gifts from family, I’ve acquired an entire plastic tote’s worth of socks. Seriously, an entire tote. Thing is, most shoes don’t have enough room for thick socks. Do you know what else doesn’t? The two suitcases you’re allowed on an international flight. Just because you’ve acquired loads of a useful item doesn’t mean you will really need all of it.

To Take: Crochet hooks. It may not be crochet hooks for you, but don’t leave all your hobbies and interests behind. I didn’t bring any yarn or half-finished projects, but the hooks themselves take up very little space, allow me to continue with a hobby and make me feel better about leaving all those socks behind, because if I get really cold, I’ll be able to make a pair, right? (No, I won’t. My skills are limited to slightly lumpy rectangles.)

To Leave: The electronic translator. A well-meaning friend or relative probably gifted this to you. Let me verify your initial impression — you won’t use it. Ever. They’re too slow to use for conversation and too limited for writing. Chuck it in the Goodwill pile and good riddance.

To Take: A nice water bottle. Mine cost $9 at Walmart, is insulated and has a screw-on tea diffuser, as I’m a big tea drinker. It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated when you’re sitting in an airport, and dehydration will make the jet lag that much worse. A fancy new water bottle feels like a treat every time you fill it up and will also prove a valuable asset while walking around foreign cities.

To Leave: The old tablet. This applies to any electronics you haven’t used in the last month. They may have sentimental value, but if there’s a layer of dust on it already, let it gather dust in storage or a tech-inclined friend’s closet. Don’t waste your valuable space and weight restrictions on a doorstop.

To Take: A neck pillow. I didn’t know if I’d use it, but I did know that I’d spend fifteen hours on an airplane and that I’m not taking a full-sized pillow. I ended up strapping it to the top of my carry-on, anyway, so it didn’t really take up any room.

To Leave: Your ego. The first time I came to Europe, I was offended anytime someone could tell I was a foreigner. Now I get a lot of compliments, not only because my language is much better, but because my attitude has improved. You are a guest in a new country. Ask for advice. Ask for directions. Ask for language help. You’ll learn how much the locals have to offer (a lot!) and you’ll lose a lot of the stress.

To Take: A gift (of food). No matter where you’re staying your first few days, you probably won’t be totally alone. I brought my hostess apple butter and red pepper jelly and I feel that made a really good first impression. If you’re in a hostel, you can share with your roommates and make new friends. If you really do end up alone, you can drown your sorrow in food from home. No matter your situation, you win! (Unless the item breaks in your luggage. Wrap it well and seal it in plastic.)

I started this list while I was packing and have updated it since my arrival. Feel free to comment if there’s anything you’d like to add to it. If you’re currently suffering the stress of packing for an international trip, just know that when you arrive, no matter what you’ve forgotten (like tea and athletic shorts, for me), you will be so unbelievably happy to have arrived that these little won’t matter.

Fulbright Scholar Packing Tips

See? You can be *this* happy.

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Following a Fulbright Scholar: Intro

Hello all! Jeff here. I’m totally excited to introduce you to Kathryn. Kathryn, a brand new Fulbright scholar, is volunteering to write for Expat Yourself. She boards for Hamburg, Germany tomorrow. Somehow, she will make time to share with you all her whole journey and offer her perspective as a lone traveler and Fulbrighter.

Kathryn reached out to me 2 weeks ago with this line: “I’m a twenty-two year old Fulbrighter headed to Germany, hopefully indefinitely. I board my plane from Oklahoma to Hamburg in two weeks.” WOW!

Without further delay, here is Kathryn:

I asked Jeff if I could contribute to this blog because I feel that the ‘voice’ of young single expats isn’t heard much — and then spent a week and a half discovering exactly why that was. It’s three in the morning two days before I leave and this is the first moment of peace I’ve felt in weeks. Even still, a part of my brain is still cataloguing items to pack and unpack, services I still need to cancel (car insurance, Easy Pass account, etc.) and friends I haven’t said goodbye to.

I graduated from university in May with a job offer to teach English in Hamburg for one year. I had toyed with the idea of approaching this as a permanent move, but finally decided mid-June that I would like to (as they say) expat myself.

For me, the deciding factors were:

  1. I don’t have much close family. The most common question I’ve heard in these past few months is, “What do your parents think about you leaving?” While not a requirement for all expats, my loose family ties definitely made it easier to move overseas alone. I visited my sister on the other side of the country in July and I’ve agreed to visit every few years. Many young people don’t have the means to pop back for visits every year, so it’s important that family and friends have realistic expectations.
  2. There are available jobs in my field in my new location. While I’m not certified as an ESL teacher, I have enough experience that if my current position isn’t renewed for a second year, I should be able to land on my feet.
  3. I have support/I speak the local language. Both my employer and the online community of ESL teachers are generous with resources and advice. If I have to figure things out on my own, though, my German’s good enough to complete job applications.
  4. There are opportunities for advancement and self-improvement in my new location. While in Hamburg, I plan to become certified as an ESL instructor. It’s not a golden ticket, but it will make me a better candidate in a competitive job market. This is also not something I could do if I stayed at home. The closest program of the type I want is eight hours away — but in Hamburg, there’s one twenty minutes from my flat.
  5. I have a back-up plan. If everything goes sideways and I end up broke and unemployed at the end of my contract, my employer is paying for me to return next summer. I’d like nothing more than to flourish in Germany, but I’d like nothing less than to be a German hobo.

When giving up the safety nets that comes from years in one location, family, citizenship, language fluency — these practical things matter. Obviously this list ignores the most pressing reason, which is that I want to. At the end of the day, I would probably still go if some of these items were missing, but I don’t think I would be able to feel comfortable and calm, even at three in the morning two days before my flight.

Regards,
KMS

Fulbrighter to Hamburg

 

 

 

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What’s a Visa?

I’m not talking about the plastic card in your wallet, used for faking like you’ve got money. Americans are GREAT with those! No, I’m talking about the little slip of paper or stamp that comes after a little paperwork, a fee and a follow-up visit to your local embassy or airport. And that’s just tourist visas, not a business one. In short, a hassle.

Why Getting a Visa Sucks

If you think getting a tourist visa is a hassle, you’re not alone. It takes paperwork, spending money ($30-$300) and maybe even a visit to a nearby embassy or consulate. In other words, it’s easier to book a flight around the world, than to arrange permission to walk off the plane. But if you’re American, well, lucky for you! Americans, with their US passports, can visit pretty much every country on the planet, visa-free. Out of nearly 200 countries, Americans can visit 172 of them without a visa. Yes, you can stay up to 90 days in almost every country, without any hassle. Just book your flight and Go.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit that Country?

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Today is June 21st, 2014

It was 2 years ago I got the letter. Two years ago, CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) said I was awarded Permanent Residency in Canada. The letter was dated June 11th and I received it on the 21st – exactly 2 years ago today. That’s kinda cool to me. :)

Two Years – My Last Qualification

To apply for citizenship, I have to be a permanent resident of Canada for (at least) two years before. My final interview was June 27th, 2012. I had the interview about a week after my letter came June 21st, 2012. Note: if you want to learn all about the PR final interview, read here. That post is at 300 comments and growing!

So, here I am in June 2014, meeting that 2-year requirement. (Yea!)

The 2-year thing is just one condition. What other requirements are there?

Here are all of them to be eligible for citizenship:

  • You lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 4 years. (1095 days) Check!
  • You’re able to communicate well in either English, French or both. Check! (just English for me.)
  • Know about Canada – be able to pass a citizenship test. I’m a fast learner, so… Check!
  • Lastly, be a permanent resident for at least 2 years before applying. Check!

What does all this mean for me? Well, it means I will be….

Applying For Canadian Citizenship – Yea!

Okay, to be totally safe, I’ll probably wait a month or so before applying. The reason is I haven’t spent 1095 continuous days in Canada. Over the past 3 years, I’ve visited the US for a few weeks and Prague for a week. So, I’ll wait until mid-July to apply.

If you need to be sure, CIC offers a calculator here. But be aware you have to (first register and) log in to get the “results.”

If you don’ t want to go through registering with the CIC, you can do it yourself.

Here is how the math works:

1. Figure out when you arrived in Canada.

2. What day did you get Canadian Permanent Residence status?

3. What day do you want to fill in the application for Canadian citizenship?

Count It Up

[(How many days between #1 & #2) / 2] + [How many days between #2 & #3]

If that number is 1095 or more, then you can apply for citizenship.  (1095 = 3 years worth of days)

Ah, but what if you had some vacation time, outside the country? Excellent question — and here’s my answer to that….

How to Vacation Out of Canada – And Apply For Citizenship Faster

Have you wanted to vacation out of Canada, but you’re afraid that every day you’re outside Canada, that’s another day longer you can’t apply for citizenship?

Not really. It actually depends on when you vacation.

Let’s look again at the number facts

Fact #1: You need 3 years worth of days (1095 exactly) of physical presence in Canada.

Fact #2: Each day you lived in Canada before you became a permanent resident counts as half a day.

Fact #3: Each day you lived in Canada after you became a permanent resident counts as a whole day.

Let’s look at 2 examples, using “Alice” and “Bob” again to find out when is the best time to take an extended vacations outside Canada.

Vacation Example #1:

Alice is a Permanent Resident and has been for nearly 2 years. She is planning a 3-month trip back to India. Soon after her return, Alice plans to apply for citizenship.

Vacation Example #2:

Bob is a landed immigrant, but not yet a Permanent Resident. He submitted his PR application a few months ago and noticed online that processing just started. With all his free time, Bob is considering a 3-month visit to family in the Philippines. He expects to get back long before a letter arrives that his PR application was approved.

Who’s Vacation Counts Most Against Citizenship?

If you’re paying attention, you know the answer already. Yup, Alice. Her 3-months away means she must wait another 3 months longer before she can apply for citizenship.

But Bob’s 3-month vacation will only take away 1.5 months from his citizenship application date. Because Bob took vacation before he got his Permanent Resident status, his days in Canada count as only half-days. And thus, his vacation days out of the country only forfeit away half the time.

Sure, it’s “glass is half-full” versus “half-empty” thinking, but in terms of “opportunity lost” the logic is sound.

Something I thought you should be aware of, in case you’re planning around your PR interview date.

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HUGELY GENEROUS CONTEST AHEAD

But first, a word from our sponsor…

(review written by me, after the company sent me a wallet to check out for you all)

Review of the CAZLET iPhone Wallet

The good people of Kynez contacted me recently. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in reviewing their newest wallet, the CAZLET.

Keith of Kynez explained the CAZLET is an iPhone wallet. I was immediately skeptical, but I figured “Why not, I’ll check it out if they’re sending me one.

Well, I got it 3 days ago, and have been using it 100%. My impression: the CAZLET is a smart product. 

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Canadian Immigration Federal Worker Program

Yesterday Canada announced it is re-opening the Federal Skilled Worker and Skilled Trades Program.

If you want to get into Canada, this is great news for you.

Getting Into Canada as a Federal Skilled Worker

This is very exciting news for people who wanted to immigrate into Canada, but didn’t want to marry a Canadian to do it.  LOL [click to continue…]

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You know, as a man gets older (not “old,” just older), he labels his experience as worthy to pass on. Women…they have the miracle of birth, but for us guys, passing on knowledge is pretty much all we got. So, I guess, given the chance, we run with it. :)

Last week, a 16-year boy wrote to me, asking for advice. He admires his dad whose own corporate career included assignments abroad. The boy lived overseas for half his life, and wants to continue it himself. Very cool to hear.

Well, you combine the two things and it starts to explain the good feeling I get from e-mail chain between me and this young one. [click to continue…]

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Advice to a 16-Year Old

I get e-mail asking for help. E-mail every day. And I answer every one. Don’t believe me? Try me.

I’d say 85% of the e-mail I get is the same general request for help: get me overseas. For general e-mails, I give general help. See examples here.

But sometimes I get an e-mail that tugs at my heart. Today was one of them. A 16-year old wrote for some early life-direction advice. At first glance, it was almost “cute.” I mean, imagine, a 16 year old asking a total stranger (-me, of all people!) for advice. He doesn’t know me at all. He only knows I have travelled and he wants the same. Then I read it carefully. [click to continue…]

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To some, “Slomo” is Dr. John Kitchin, a neurologist. To others, he seems like “a homeless guy with a nice pair of skates.” To others, he’s just …happy. He got away.

Watch the video and decide who Slomo is to you.

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Heard the News?

Just in case you missed the news, US President Obama quietly extended the country’s status of national emergency. I’m guessing you missed that bit of news. Though, you probably didn’t miss the fact the year is now 2014.

I know what you’re thinking… it’s 2014, and the terrorist attack which killed nearly 3000 people on September 11, 2001 happened in 2001. That’s like …13 years ago. Yup, 13 years. Yup, the US, the most (insert here: powerful/wealthy/nuclear-tipped/war faring/inch-measuring) country in the world, still running scared in a state of national “Oh GAWD, the sky is falling!” emergency.

It's a trap!

Thirteen Years. Seriously?

Do you know what you were doing during the attack? For millions of Americans, it’s the annual conversation-starter question, if ever there was one.

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