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5 Things to be mindful of when moving to Europe (from Africa).

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

One of the biggest decision most immigrants (African immigrants especially) have to make is that of leaving their home country in search of a better future in Europe. In our very first episode, we cover what I deemed are the Five steps to consider when making the decision of relocating to Europe from Africa.

Hello everyone and welcome to Side Note. My name is D-Terence; and I want to thank you all for tuning in today for our very first episode of the podcast, please be sure to leave a comment after reading this episode and let me know what you think of it.

Today am going to be talking about the five things you should be mindful of when planning to move to Europe as an African. Recent studies by Eurostat shows that over 20 million Africans have moved to Europe in the last year. Now this number also includes asylum seekers, students, and settlers. The world is undeniably a global ecosystem and geographical movement is just one of the many by-products of this ecosystem.

I grew up in Cameroon (Central Africa) until the age of 22 when I decided to relocate to Liverpool UK to study at the Liverpool Hope University for a Master Degree in Human Resource Management and Development. I still remember the day I made that decision, and the planning that went into executing this decision.

The steps which I will cover in this podcast have been put together from my own experiences and lessons learned, but also from conversations with other Africans leaving/studying in Europe. Leaving home is a huge step in anyone’s life, you are choosing to give up your comfort zone (so to speak) with the aspiration for a better future. In most cases, you are leaving behind, you parents and siblings, friends and culture to embark on an uncertain future. It is a decision not to take lightly and therefore some thoughts need to go into the following steps.

Step 1: Understand Why you are leaving.

How many times have you received a message or heard the following lines from a friend or family member back home (for those of you who are already based abroad): “Can you send me a letter of invitation, I’d like to join you in the UK” (or whatever country you might be base). I know I have heard them a couple of times; and when you try to find out what exactly they intend to do once they are in Europe the answer almost always goes something along the lines of “I will figure it out when am there” or “I will hustle like everyone else”.

Understanding why you are leaving your home country is important as this gives you a focus, a purpose, a WHY. Most of us who come to Europe do so for several reasons but the most prevailing one is for Studies (Bachelor or Masters). A vast majority of the those who leave for studies either go through scholarships (Erasmus/Chevening/commonwealth) or the self funded route. Regardless of which category you fall in, if studies is your reason for leaving then you will need to make sure that you have worked your way to this stage: by that I mean you have the grades needed for scholarship consideration or admission in the desired department/field of studies; and NO you should not even think of forging some certificates as this will not work: either you are spotted during the application process or you get admitted but are unable to perform to the standards/expectation you falsely presented. Either way you are not going to come out on top in either scenarios.

Being clear on the “Why” is your first step in ensuring you got your head on straight regarding your move.

Step 2: Figuring out Where you are going.

Now that you are clear on the reason why you want to embark on this adventure, the next thing you need to be thinking about is identifying where you want to go. There are several variables to take into consideration when choosing a destination for your move. Obviously, you must choose a country which offers your desired course if your planning to study or favorable job market if it’s for work purposes. Is the degree am going after recognized? This is a question most people overlook; Yes, there are some universities who offer degrees which are not recognized by most companies, for example, if you hold a Master Degree in Human Resource Management for instance in the UK and your degree is not CIPD certified, then you will find it quit difficult to secure a job as compared to another graduate who has this certification. The same goes with other fields like Marketing and Finance. This does not apply to all countries, but it is something you really need to investigate and consider when making the selection.

Choosing the right country and city to move to is one of the most essential steps in relocating. There is also the socio-economic aspect of things: what’s the society like towards immigrants, what is the employment market like?, do they hire loads of expats, internationals or is very difficult to secure a job due to factors like limited job opportunity or talent saturation. All these need to be considered.

One of the important aspects of living in a new city in being able to integrate: so, make sure you do your research on the city that holds the university or company you intent to go to/work at. This will help you have a plan and a clear image of what it be like living there: for those who are heading for studies it will give you a head start on things like where to sign up for contingent work during your studies, what route or options you may have after studies to land yourself your ideal job (if that’s what you’re after). Understanding what the job market is like: is it more degree based (like in Germany) or more experienced based (like in the UK), if the country your interested in is for instance, experienced based, then you need to figure out how to build up that experience in your related job field. This can be achieved via internships, and job placements. You do not want to spend most or all your time on the student jobs (interim job) as this will not help you in this case. Figure out what the market wants and find the way to equip yourself with the required skills needed to offer that which they want.

Oh, and there is the weather: trust me you do not want to leave the weather out. I studied in Liverpool for my master and one thing I left out of my research was the weather in the North west: if you are a fan of the grey, windy and chilly (sometimes) and cold (most times) weather then your in luck; but if you are like me and you thrive for long summers and bright days, then Liverpool may not be for you. You are going to be based in this place for a greater part of your future and thus you should be comfortable with the city in its entirety.

Am sure there is allot more you can do when deciding on which city to relocate to, but the above ones are what I consider the essentials 😊

Step 3. Finance (Can you afford this?)

So, you have identified why you want to leave, you’ve zoned on where you would like to relocate, and if you’re like most Africans- like myself, you come from a modest family. If this is the case, then the next step is what will either make or break your plans for relocation and that is “can you afford to relocate?”. Of course, if you are fortunate to come from a well-to-do family, this is a no brainer.

Let’s take the case of the Study route: the easy approach will be awarded a scholarship to one of these universities. If your grades are outstanding, then do some research on the available scholarships which are available for your field as mentioned in step 1. If this route is unsuccessful, then besides the tuition, you have to make sure you can cover the following costs:

  • Cost of living (this is usually defined on the school’s website)

  • Health care cost (in some countries you will not be covered by health care)

  • Cost of accommodation (if you do not have any friends or relative who can accommodate you)

  • Cost of visa application

The last thing you want as a student is to worry about money and not enjoying the experience of being a student: trust me it will haunt you!

If your heading for the career route then chances are your already working in your home country and will have had some sort of savings, the same check list applies except of course for the tuition.

Regardless of which route your taking just ensure that you are able to financially sustain yourself at least for the first six months upon arrival; because that’s roughly how long it will take for you to integrate the society and know your way around in order to figure out what other ways you can make some extra money to keep you going.

Step 4: Mentally Prepared:

The mind is our body's best defense, and like every other defense system, it needs to be properly trained for any and all scenarios. Most people who travel abroad go through metal and psychological stress during the first 3 months of arrival: this is a result of several factors among which home sickness and cultural Shock are reoccurring reasons.

I remember when I just arrived in Liverpool, I was three weeks late (visa issues-delays) and thus had missed the induction and welcome evening with all the new students. So, by the time I got to my hostel, everyone had already know paired up and made friends and I was the odd one sticking out like a sore thumb. I didn’t know anyone, and I had no idea what to expect from this new chapter I had just started: the weather was different, the people acted differently (not in a bad way just different), and I had loads of catching up to do with school as well. All of that was quite overwhelming and I remember asking myself “what the hell did you do moving all the way out to this place, why the hell will you do this? Are you crazy? You ain't gonna make it stupid!!”

This was just one of many instances during my time in the UK where I had a mental freak out as a result of circumstances surrounding me. This is not withstanding the reoccurring feeling of home sick when all my class mates will head to their family's for holidays like Easter and Christmas and I will be left alone or at some friend's family dinner (who was kind enough to invite me over) missing my mum like crazy and wishing nothing but to get a chance to head home. Now my situation is unique and so will yours, but these moments will occur.

It is important to get an idea of how life will be like in what will be your new home; and although you can’t know it all, you can at least prepare yourself mentally of what to expect. Some of you will have family members in the country you are heading to (this will help a great deal), while others will have no one and this will influence how well you integrate yourself. Again, there are other factors which will play into this: for instance, if you are an introvert this will be a more challenging experience as oppose to someone who is an extrovert and loves to meet and connect with new people.

Regardless of all this, the best advice I can give you is be excited for the new chapter you will be embarking on, look forward to the new people you will get to meet and the memories you will create, and treat every moment of your stay as an opportunity to learn something new.

Step 5: Always keep the end in mind

It’s very easy to get distracted from your goal when you relocate to a new country. There are new people you will meet, the excitement of a new city, and all what it has to offer, hanging out with people who do not necessarily have the same need to succeed as you may have.

Keeping your WHY at the back of your mind is essential to make sure you do not lose sight of your objectives and goals. Now it’s perfectly OK to socialize and integrate yourself to your new environment; just always remember where you came from, why you’re there, and what you need to do to reach your goals.

So, there you have it guys, these are the five things to keep in mind if you are planning to move to EUROPE for studies or work. I hope you found these information’s useful, please do let me know I the comment section what your experience was when you relocated and what other topics you would want me to cover in the next podcast. Until then, stay blessed 😊

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