The dream ends13 September 2013
In a week or so, I start my new job. It is not in New Zealand as I intended, but back in Europe, and as I spend my last few hours in Auckland's Koru lounge I think back to the difficulties faced in the whole process. Many of the underlying issues related specifically to job-hunting are ones that I faced in the past before I secured by previous job in Bristol, but the added dimensions of being overseas wear you down in a very different way to the pressures of job-hunting in isolation. A major motive for doing this whole adventure was to see and feel first-hand what my overseas friends had gone through coming to the UK, and the main thing I realised is how hard it is maintaining focus. It also colours my whole view of the debate on immigration (and to a lesser extent, the EU) back in the UK.
TimeUltimately it was an issue of time. Whereas in the UK not hearing from a company within a week or two pretty much means your application is dead, whereas in New Zealand it is not unusual to hear nothing for 6-8 weeks. Maybe I could have gone right to the wire with the visa, but I decided a few extra weeks was not worth the extra down-side costs. Ironically I had to turn down one interview with a simple I am leaving the country tomorrow, and I could hear the tone of disappointment coming over the phone. That may have been my lucky break, but by that point the costs (financial and opportunity) of a few extra weeks I had already decided were too high.
No supportA common theme. Although there is only so much friends & family (assuming you have any around) can do, local friends often simply do not have the understanding needed to give proper emotional support. You a truly on your own. When you are 20 million meters from your home-town and more-or-less living out of a suitcase (or three), burning savings like coal and with a visa ticking away like an alarm clock attached to a bundle of cordite sticks, the feeling of isolation is incomprehensible to people who have not been though similar things. I now truly understand what my overseas university friends went through.
Lack of foundationsThe hardest part was the sheer extent your life is on hold, and for me this was most noticeable in the way that you need to avoid investing, and this extends to more than just money. Most people in this situation have already uprooted themselves at least once, and the background possibility of having to do it again is ever present in the mind, so there has to be a conscious effort to avoid committing to things just in case you have to drop them all at short notice. Eventually not being able to even build a proper base, let alone do any major life planning, becomes overpowering.
A further aspect is that people who have come out this far have typically given up a lot, frequently in a process far from painless, which means that going back invariably means going backwards. For me it is mostly a very expensive disappointment, but I have met several people who I suspect have been bought to the brink of ruin. Oddly enough, Irish pubs seems to be where where all the despondent English end up congregating.