Life as an expat provided endless opportunities to learn and explore – even a simple trip to the grocery store would sometimes leave us wide-eyed and full of wonder. But most importantly, we had the opportunity to raise our children as citizens of the world. And what an amazing, beautiful experience that had been.
This american family have just moved from the warm deserts of Arizona to the cold cost of Ireland. But not only the landscapes have changed: Desert to Dublin teaches us all transitions that expats face since taking the big decision. Relocation, traveling with pets, how to enjoy this experience with the smallest, getting settled… Megan prove us we can always solve the unexpected events with information, patience and a cup of coffee in the hands!
What does a young American family living in Ireland?
Roughly a year ago our family was living in the gorgeous deserts of Tucson, Arizona, USA. While we loved our community and scenery, my husband’s career (in marketing/sales) had evolved to a stage where the time he spent traveling far exceeded the time spent at home. It was time to re-evaluate our lives, as we were all emotionally and physically drained. We reflected on what had brought us the most happiness in the past and we both concluded that we had found the most joy in living as expats (previously, in 2006-2007 we lived in Melbourne, Australia – where my husband completed his MBA and my middle child, Matilda, was born). We determined a phd could be exactly the career shift my husband needed, a pursuit that would also allow us the opportunity to once again live abroad. We began researching university options and found Smurfit Business School in Dublin was the best fit.
In Desert To Dublin you tell us a lot of experiences of your journey from Australia to Ireland… Could you tell us a summary, now the hardest part is over, of how the move have been?
Relocating from Tucson, Arizona, to Dublin, Ireland, certainly has had its challenges. Relocating our two labradoodles presented some last minute challenges the weekend of our departure, as the service we hired failed to communicate some of the USDA and customs paperwork involved. Also our sea freight is still missing in action after the service hired accidentally directed it to the wrong country, and at our expense. And we had massive challenges clearing immigration registration, as it is required a rather extensive and complicated set of paperwork to obtain a GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) card in Ireland. So the move has been exhausting, overwhelming, and full of surprises, to say the least.
However, all that being said, we knew from our previous experience, in Australia, to expect the first month to present a learning curve. We are constantly pausing to appreciate the fact that this opportunity is a gift and that, in the end, we will manage and emerge with an entirely new perspective. And on a positive note, my children are adapting amazingly well and I am in awe of their bravery and enthusiasm. Regardless of the struggles we’ve had, I have that much to be thankful for… and that is everything.
Unfortunately, you have had some unexpected problems finding a school for your children… What happened and how they have been solved?
Prior to uprooting our lives, we of course researched the costs we could expect. We spent a great deal of time investigating education options for our children and had been directed to use national schools by the university’s international studies department. As such, upon our arrival, we sought out a property near a national school that managed to find spaces for my daughters (note, both finding a home and spaces in a primary school are challenges here in Dublin presently, so we had felt quite victorious in procuring both so quickly and easily). All seemed to be going swimmingly.
After having our proof of residency, banking, and schooling sorted, we made our expected visit to the immigration office to complete our registration. At that time, we were told as student visas, we were in fact not entitled to use Ireland’s national schools. We were shocked and devastated. And to further complicate matters, we were then given five business days to locate and register with a private primary school instead. Private primary schools in Ireland are few and far between, and the vast majority exist for those speaking specific foreign languages (French and Irish schools were all that could be found in our district). We eventually found a school the next district over that taught in both English and German (a language our family has never been exposed to) and enrolled our daughters immediately, as it was our last chance to avoid deportation. The unexpected cost presented a considerable strain, and is something we’ve had to scramble and adjust to manage. The silver lining is it does indeed seem to be an excellent school and my daughters are looking forward to beginning next week. Just the same, I hope that in the future other families relocating to Ireland on a student visa are adequately informed of this issue.
Irish culture is still a bit mysterious to me. As with Australia, I can say so far I appreciate how easy going the lifestyle seems to be (when compared with the U.S.). And the locals have been incredibly friendly and helpful. My hope is that now that the most overwhelming challenges seem to be behind us, I’ll finally have the opportunity to get acquainted with my local community.
We’ve done a bit of exploring and thus far my children are most enjoying the beaches. Having spent the last five years living in the deserts of Arizona, you can imagine how vastly different the landscape and climate seem to my family. Balcarrick Beach and Bray have been our favorite waterside destinations lately. My daughters were entranced by the tide pools at Balcarrick just yesterday. We’ve also enjoyed the Airfield Cafe and farm, the Leprechaun Museum, and strolling through Temple Bar and downtown Dublin. My hope for our family blog is to not only document the process of relocating abroad, but to also capture ordinary daily life as an expat in Ireland as well as chronicle our adventures visiting the local sights. So stay tuned.
One definitely has to be a low-maintenance individual to embrace life as an expat. There is quite a lot of adapting to be done and the transition can be trying. It helps to focus on the adventure aspect and to realize that in the end, your world view will expand exponentially and the memories made are worth every effort. In fact, I have to smile at the mere thought of how this experience will be life-changing, in a positive manner, for my children.
However, while my husband and I are both adventure seekers, I must also confess we have our moments of doubt and exhaustion. We depend on one another for the occasional motivational thought when challenges are at their worst. One must be kind to themselves during this process and accept that it’s fair to have moments of homesickness or days where you second-guess the entire decision. That is to be expected. And fortunately, those moments pass.
When you have more and deserved time (hopefully soon!), what have you planned or what do you dream to do?
My hope for the next four years is to fully assimilate into our community. I look forward to my children forming friendships… and I hope to form a few myself! It’s the simple experiences I’ve enjoyed the most, in the past, when living abroad. A pleasant afternoon enjoying a coffee at a cafe, passing by an unexpected historical site during a morning stroll, having a chat with a local about cultural differences… those are the moments that tend to have the biggest impact.
Of course we also hope to do some exploring… the Blarney Stone, Giant’s Causeway, and the Galway Races are all things on the agenda while we are in this general corner of the world. I also hope to visit Amargh at some point, as my great great grandparents were born there. So there certainly won’t be a shortage of adventures to be had. We intend to enjoy our new home and embrace the culture as much as possible.
If you want to know how the adventure of Megan’s family continues: Desert to Dublin !
EXPATS IN BELGIUM
If you’re starting your own adventure expat in Belgium, you need expert information or to meet people that are in your same situation, join the e-community of Settle & Connect !