Thursday, March 31, 2011

How you can afford to study abroad

This particular tidbit applies to Americans. As I've written about earlier, you can study in many countries, such as Germany or Norway without paying tuition (not all schools in the target countries are free, but many are, even to foreigners).  And as hinted at in that Germany write-up, many people will find it cheaper to study abroad because they can't afford US tuition. But that being said, how do you start your educational journey abroad?

University of Vienna¹
Photo by http2007
You're likely going to be applying for Federal student aid. This aid can be spent on your living expenses rather than tuition. However, not all schools that you can attend participate in Federal student aid programs. Those which do have a Federal School Code. Here's where you can get a list of 2011-2012 Federal School codes. So if you download the PDF version, you'll notice that the last 10 pages are crammed full of schools in many foreign countries for which federal student financial aid is available.

All you need to do is research the schools you want, pick one, apply there as a transfer student and, if accepted, apply for a student visa from the country in question. I would also strongly recommend you consider schools in less exotic locations. If they have cheap or free tuition for foreign students combined with a low cost of living, why the heck not? And if your student visa allows part-time work, then yes, it's easy to see why it would be less expensive than a degree back in the US.

1. Note that the University of Vienna does not participate in the US Federal Financial aid system, however, non-EU students only have to pay €416 a semester.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why we flee (for real, this time)

My apologies for the login problems. I don't know what's Google's done, but obviously something has not been working right. Also, this post is still a bit misnamed because I focus on the validity of people wanting to move to another country more than their actual reasoning. I'll never get this naming thing right.

Yesterday's post created some responses which I have to confess caught me off guard. They were thoughtful enough that I felt they deserved a response in a full post rather than something buried in the comments. For example:
What I found a little peculiar was the comment in the post: "You do have to be willing to compromise. Many would turn down a job in Lima, Peru because they want Paris instead. I can't help you there."- which does rather sound like "I don't care where I go, as long as it's out of this country". Now, I can understand that approach if you are talking about a year abroad, some experience, or similar, but to actually emigrate properly, I find that a tad on the irresponsible side.
"Half and Half" revisited
Montevideo Beach
Photo by Vince Alongi
Mea culpa. I really should have explained myself better.  I agree that to try to permanently move somewhere with little thought as to the destination can be irresponsible. That being said, I don't particularly concern myself with where people want to go or why. I'm more concerned with helping people realizing their dreams because I think opening up our world is important. As a result, the reason for the "Lima/Paris" comment is simple: there are plenty of absolutely fantastic places out there and I think many people simply don't know about them. For example, I did a write-up (a couple, actually) on Uruguay because I thought people should know that the world is round and that maybe, just maybe, they might enjoy life on a beach near Montevideo. That's also why I try to move around the world in topics I pick and many of the photo collections posted here cover areas which aren't tourist destinations. It makes this blog a bit harder to put together, but I think it's important.

While I agreed with the above point, this one I struggled with (my apologies to whiskeylover for picking two of his comments to illustrate this):
I should probably add that I have only been to NY twice, briefly, on holiday, so don't have that much insight into the American way of life, but it does not strike me as so dreadful that one has to leave, irrespective of which country one might end up in (unlike, say, if you were a Jew in Germany in the late 1930s).
First off, I can't say I know of any Americans who are going to claim that they have it worse than, say, someone facing the death penalty for leaving their religion. However, just because someone isn't as bad off as someone else shouldn't invalidate their dreams of seeing the world, nor does it mean they're less worthy of this right. It does mean they probably shouldn't be trying to claim political asylum or deny those who need it that escape, but if they can find a way to make it out on their own and see what else the planet has to offer, I'm behind them completely.

The reality is, if you decide you want to leave your home country, whether it be the pull of adventure of the push of repeatedly being assaulted both physically and verbally because you're not a Christian (that's only a part of my motivation, to be honest), sure it's not as bad as others have it, but it's that bad for you and as long as you're not hurting anyone else, it's perfectly OK to want to go, even if you're not facing prison, death, or some other terrible privation. In fact, even if it doesn't seem rational to others, that's OK. Some of my late grandmother's art seemed far from rational, but who was I to begrudge her?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why we flee

Yes, this blog post is horribly misnamed. It has something to do with a morning alternating between writing a paragraph or two and going back to my daughter who is at the "I need plenty of attention stage". She falls asleep every 20 minutes or so or else I would never have gotten this written.

This blog has been going strong for about four months now. It's getting more and more followers, the number of comments is increasing and I've been getting email from folks who are actually trying to get out. For those who are new here and want to understand what's going on and for those who've been around for a while and need a reminder, I think it's time for a quick recap of what we're trying to do here.

In short, this is for people who want to move to a new country. You don't give a damn about discount tickets to sex museums or Eurodisney's hours. Spending two weeks somewhere on vacation and living there are simply not the same thing. You have, however, two serious problems:

  • Getting there
  • Staying there

Getting there

Getting out is hard. As I've written about previously, one study shows 10% of US households wanting to emigrate to another country with another 10% considering it part time. Those are huge numbers. What's stopping most? Knowledge. They just don't know how to do it. That's why I keep offering different strategies for you whether you're a skilled worker and need to know how to get a work permit, an unskilled worker who's willing to teach English overseas, or maybe you have a small, permanent income stream and you're looking for countries who will let you move there if you have income, such as Uruguay.

Barring convicted felons, people with major communicable diseases like tuberculosis and a few other things which vary from country to country, you can probably get out. You don't have to be rich. You don't have to be skilled. You do have to be willing to compromise. Many would turn down a job in Lima, Peru because they want Paris instead. I can't help you there.¹

The main thing to getting out of the country is that you have to take action make it happen. If you don't understand Count von Europe and why you'll say "no" to his offer of a job in Europe, you're not going anywhere. I recently had one friend tell me they could get ready to go in a couple of months. I knew the obstacles they faced and argued strongly that they already set themselves up for failure by not putting themselves in a position to leave immediately. When your think "I'll get around to getting myself ready to leave" sooner or later, it means that you probably won't do it. When I spoke my friend later, I was not surprised to hear them say "one or two years" instead. Their reasons are perfectly valid, but the reasons we put forward often are. It's a question of how bad you want this.

Staying there

Wanting to get there isn't enough. If you find you can't handle it, you may be pretty upset with yourself if you tuck tail and run. However, many people do. The number of expatriates returning home early from overseas assignments is as high as 68% in some cases. If you can't adjust to your new culture, that combined with homesickness could easily drive you back. That's why instead of just telling you about how to get out, I also try to give you insight into some of the challenges you'll face, from cultural difficulties to struggles with food.

In short, after you plan to get out, you have to actually make that escape and stay there. It's a lot more than just "hey, I gots me a job!". It's about turning wishful thinking into a concrete plan of action. That's what this blog is about. Now get off your tail and start looking for a new country.

1. As I get constantly reminded, when people say "I want to live in another country", what they often mean is "I want to live in Europe". That's fine, but they have to realize that this is often harder to pull off. Does Montevideo not appeal? Is Seoul not sexy enough? There's a good chance that it's just because you don't know them.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Table Manners

We had a couple of friends up from Paris visiting us and as we sat down to dinner, I found myself struck, again, about subtle differences in table manners. In the US, you stab your food with the fork held in the left hand, saw at it with the knife held in your right hand, and then you put your knife down, move the fork to the right hand, lift it to your mouth, return the fork to your left hand and repeat the process.

What the hell's up with the hand switching? I did it, too. When I was 17 and visiting my grandparents, I finally realized how silly that was and tried to stop switching hands and my grandmother said "If you're going to try to eat European style, try to at least have some table manners." Whereupon she tried (and failed dramatically) to teach me to be polite at the dinner table.
Good table manners or bad?
Photo by Joshua Rappeneker
Today, I hold my fork in my left hand and use that hand to life the food to my mouth — as does just about everyone in Europe. This silly "constantly pass the fork back and forth from hand-to-hand" nonsense doesn't hold over here.

I've also had to adjust to a few other changes. In many parts of the US, lifting food to your mouth with the back of the fork is very poor table manners. In the UK, I found the reverse is often true. And then there was the time my wife and I were visiting a friend in the US and he served us a delicious meal, but with only a fork. No knife. I glanced at my wife and I could see some confusion on her plate, but she said nothing. I honestly don't know if it's a French/US dichotomy, but in the US, some folks will serve single dish meals with only a fork and here, that's unthinkable.

You may not notice this stuff, but when I go back to the US, just as I have to be careful to adjust my vocabulary (saying "cheers" with an American accent will get you mocked), I have to adjust my table manners. Many don't notice them ... until they they see someone doing it differently.

If you're curious, here's a group of students from around the world discussing table manners in their home countries.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Biking to Work

amsterdam canal
Amsterdam bikes
Photo by stilefree
Like true Amsterdammers, I've now started to bike to work. I never did that back in London because frankly, I don't have a death wish. I used to bike to work in Portland, Oregon and also in Nottingham, but here in Amsterdam, biking is not only safe, but encouraged. When there's not a wide, purpose built bike lane, there's often a large portion of the road set aside for bikes. Of course, once I get to the incomparable Vondelpark, this already easy commute gets even easier.

I was taking the tram to work and that was taking about 25 minutes, but this saves an extra 10 minutes of time (and that was taking it easy!). And drivers don't get upset at bikers, but tack in the US, people would often scream at me while I was biking to work. And I don't want to hear any bullshit about "bikers breaking driving laws". Not only did I scrupulously follow the laws, but car drivers ignore driving laws all them time; they're just not inconveniencing impatient drivers as much when they do.

Photo by Olivier Bruchez
So far, the only city I've seen which was this bike obsessed was Copenhagen. I've been to that gorgeous city a couple of times and many bikes in Copenhagen simply had a rear wheel lock or no lock at all. Relative to the US, there's not much crime here in Amsterdam, but there's a lot of bike theft. Seems there's not even a lot of that in Copenhagen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

French Foreign Legion Myths

Today's post will be a little strange because of two things:
  1. People keep arriving here after researching the French Foreign Legion
  2. People keep repeating incorrect information about the Legion
I've gotten so tired of people repeating the same myths about the French Foreign Legion that I've created a page specifically for handy reference in correcting misperceptions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From expatriate to repatriate

One woman I know in the UK told me she was thinking about returning to the US — without her husband. He had a job and was quite happy in the UK, but she couldn't find work and was miserable being separated from her family and friends. I've written about homesickness before, but I was curious just how prevalent this problem is. In Chapter 2 of the US Expatriate Handbook, I found the following:
Consider the following percentages, provided by the Business Council for International Understanding, of expatriates who return to the US prematurely from a foreign assignment: London 18 percent, Brussels 27 percent, Tokyo 36 percent, and Saudi Arabia 68 percent.
Taj Mahal
Exotic beauty isn't enough
to keep you happy
Photo by Raphaël Fauveau
Assuming these numbers are true (and they feel right to me), this basically translates to: the more foreign the culture, the more likely you are to leave. In fact, that whopping 68% just jumped out at me. Can you imagine a company transferring people overseas knowing that 2 out of 3 won't be able to handle the change? This is why companies need to do more to support their expat employees, but that's another issue altogether.

For the numbers above, this handbook and those figures are for people posted from a US company to a foreign position. These people probably have different motivations for what they're doing than the average expat — not that I could describe the "average" expat.

So how can you make sure this doesn't happen to you? You don't want to be one of the failed expatriates, do you? In one 2009 study, the author surveyed many expatriates and found that:
[Expatriate] adjustment was greater among international assignees who were culturally intelligent and engaged in proactive behaviors; however, adjustment was lower among expatriates who had strong careerist orientations.
In short, you have to want to be an expatriate. You have to want to live and work in another country and you have to learn that country's culture and language. You have to dive right in and try hard to make friends.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What about your partner?

One of the most difficult issues a potential expat is going to face is their partner. If your partner doesn't want to go, I can't help you there. That's an issue you're going to have to face for yourself. However, if your partner does want to accompany you, there are a variety of things to think about.

About a decade ago, I was offered a job in Europe and my girlfriend wanted to join me. She wasn't able to and we decided to try a "long distance relationship" rather than keep me from chasing my dreams. It was very hard on both of us and this was one of the reasons why I left Europe at that time (that and the fact that I found myself at the worst technical company I've ever worked at). This is a hard choice to make and many who go the "long distance" route fail. It's hard enough when you're in different cities in the same country. Different cities in different countries is much harder and "Skype dates" aren't the same thing.

Parisian cafés are still miserable
if your partner is unhappy.
Photo by Archibald Ballantine
If your partner wants to join you, research the laws in the country in question. Some countries allow unmarried partners to accompany you so long as you can prove an established relationship. This is also often allows a gay partner to join you (of course, more and more countries are allowing gay marriage). What's even nicer is that some countries (the UK being one such example) will allow the partner to take employment and this can make things much easier. You'll need to research your target country to find out if this is allowed and, if so, under what circumstances. In fact, while your work permit will often limit to you to one job or career field, your partner may find they can take any work they desire.

That being said, it's still a difficult decision. If you are both professionals, one of you may be forced to sacrifice career opportunities. Is moving abroad worth it? If your partner is unsure about the move, removing their career opportunities is going to put tremendous pressure on your relationship.

There are, of course, more options. Maybe your partner wants to continue his or her degree?  As I've previously noted, many countries offer free or inexpensive university education and if you're out of the workforce for a couple of years, why not get that Master's degree you've always wanted? As an added bonus, graduating from a particular country's universities sometimes give you legal rights to settle in that country.

Aside from education, there are volunteer opportunities, community activities or clubs one could investigate to enrich your partner's life if they cannot work.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Photo Collection: Japan

Please help the Japanese in any way you can.

Nijo Castle (Kyoto, Japan)
Nijo Castle, Kyoto, Japan
Photo by ~MVI~

Tokyo Street Life
Tokyo Street Scene
Photo by Ivan Walsh

Japan Temple
From a Temple at Mt. Takao (near the city of Hachioji), Japan
Photo by Russ Bowling

Tokyo trains
The Infamous Tokyo Subway
Photo by Jimmy Lin

TOKYO Night @45F
Photo by DORONKO

Osaka, Japan
Photo by Michael Vito

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Volunteer to Teach English in Italy

Want to spend a month or two in the coastal Italian town of Porto Sant'Elpidio?

View Larger Map

GeoVisions is an organization which arranges volunteer teaching opportunities around the world. I stumbled across them when reading about a volunteer summer teaching opportunity in Italy. For $1,500 US (plus the cost of flights and some meals), you can spend four to eight weeks in a shared apartment on the Italian beach. In exchange, you agree to provide 20 hours a week of English tutoring at a summer camp.

GeoVisions looks very interesting and they also offer paid placements. You won't get rich at any of them unless you count world experience as riches.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Cost of Living Overseas

I've been asked again about the cost of living in Amsterdam and I think I should take the time to write a more complete discussion of this. I've touched on many of the issues here in my part 5 of my work permit series, but I since people ask and since I am getting search engine traffic for "cost of living" in foreign countries, I should explain things more carefully: the cost of living figures tend to be a difficult indicator of what you need to live somewhere.

First, we need some perspective. When I moved from a Nottingham, a small town in the UK, to London, I had to have a housemate. Food costs were higher, it was more expense and hassle to travel. No one is surprised by this. Similarly, if you move to a new country, you're going to find costs are different. You're simply going to have a different quality of life if you're living in the première arrondissement de Paris instead of Soweto.

Boudin Noir with Caramelized Apples and Saurkraut
Boudin noir tastes better than it looks
Photo by Naotake Murayama
Part of this is because we don't entirely give up our old lives. For example, when you walk into a grocey store in a new country you have a tendency to buy familiar things because frankly, you may not know what slavinken is and you're not sanguine about your chances with that boudin noir. Trying to change everything all at once is hard. Years ago I read about a gentleman pointing out why the Japanese can afford to live in Tokyo when many Americans were struggling with the prices: the Japanese were living the Japanese lifestyle; the Americans wanted American-sized flats and American-style food. This is the single most important thing to remember when moving to a new country: take yourself, not your expectations. If you insist upon living lifestyle X in country Y, you're going to drive your costs up.

While we're on the subject of lifestyle choices, be aware that cost of living indicators also don't prepare you for the individual surprises each country has. When I lived in the US and the UK, I used to hit bookstores, browse for hours and walk out with several new books at a time. My wife did the same. Note the past tense. Here in the Netherlands, thanks to a minimum fixed book price (which has interesting side-effects), even cheap mass market paperbacks cost €17 to €18 each. This has impacted our lifestyle, but won't necessarily impact yours.

Similarly, if you drive everywhere, you'll find your lifestyle impacted by a country which charges €0.5 a liter versus one which changes €5 a liter. You might also move to a city, like London, with a congestion charge where you have to pay for your daily commute. I don't drive any more (though I've been thinking about getting my license again), so this doesn't impact me.

pimp my car
This could have a dramatic budget impact
Photo by Martin Abegglen
The exchange rate is also relatively unimportant. Not only do they constantly fluctuate, but exchange rates are for exchanging currencies. They're useful when you're on holiday somewhere and you need to know how much you're really spending, but when you're paid rupees and you're spending in rupees, how much those rupees are worth in dollars is pretty useless.

So what you really want to know about the cost of living is what salary to ask for. I can't help you there because I don't know your career, your background, where you're coming from or where you're going to. You're the only person who can really answer that and if you read the work permit series and you followed the advice I laid down, you already know what someone in your position should be earning.

The only caveat I can add is that you should be aware of the legal issues with minimum wages. Specifically, many countries will not allow you to be hired if you're paid less than the national average for your position, though in practice said average is not always well defined. Furthermore, you may be hired as a highly skilled migrant or have certain legal benefits as an immigrant (such as tax rulings) which require you to be paid a minimum salary to take effect.  In short, make sure you know what minimums apply to your situation. Many employers will try to get your for the best price possible and may inadvertently (or not) try to hire you at less than a legal wage and you could find yourself technically being an illegal immigrant as a result. Don't let this happen to you!

In short: if you've researched your opportunities, you know what your job should pay and you should ask for a salary which reflects that and your skills. After that, be prepared to adjust your lifestyle to fit your new country rather than have your new country fit your lifestyle. It's not as satisfying an answer as explaining the cost of living, but it's often a more honest one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Please Help the Japanese

Please be warned that you may find much of the following video disturbing but I urge you to watch it. You'll see the effects of a Tsunami washing over Japan. It's horrifying and yes, you'll see people running for their lives. Generally the camera operator has the decency to avoid showing you the worst, but it's still painful to watch at times. The video is entirely in Japanese. This won't matter.

If this has moved you as much as it has moved me, please donate to the Red Cross relief fund for Japan. If you are not in a position to help, please forward this message to your friends.

If you prefer, you can also donate through FacebookGoogle Crisis Response, or visit this Mashable page for seven different ways you can help.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Easy move to the Netherlands: start a business

I keep hearing about the Dutch-American friendship treaty and decided to take a closer look at it. Basically, create a business plan for something you can do in the Netherlands, have at least €4,500 invested (roughly $6,250 US), and move!

OK, it's a bit more complicated than that, but not overly so. You have to have your business plan certified by an accountant, you have to have health insurance, oh ... and you have to be a US citizen because this treaty was designed to stimulate trade between the two countries. Also, you can't practice a "free profession" such as law or medicine; it must be an honest-to-goodness business.

Spaarne River, Haarlem
Spaarne River, Haarlem, Netherlands
Photo by Bogdan Migulski
Interestingly, this might actually be a good financial decision for any American with health issues. You can switch to Dutch health insurance once you're a resident. Dutch insurance companies are not allowed to deny anyone coverage and they must charge a flat rate. In the US this year, the average employer health plan costs for family coverage is $819 a month¹. My wife and I pay only €220 a month and the only reason we pay that much is we opted for better coverage (our daughter is covered for free). However, the US number is misleading. My wife and I will pay the same amount regardless of whether or not we're part of an employer health plan. In the US, if you try to buy individual health insurance, your premiums will be far higher. On top of that, many US companies are no longer offering family plans to employees due to the cost (see previous link). Heck, the deductibles in the US are often more than we pay in premiums.

So if you have a solid business plan, particularly for any business which allows you to work from anywhere, pick up and move the Netherlands. Life is pretty good here!

Here's a more detailed explanation of the treaty requirements.

1. I'm rather suspicious of this number though. This article states that annual US family insurance premiums were over $13,000 back in 2009 and I know costs have risen since then.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photo Collection: Ruins

The Friday's photo set is about ruins. They always fascinate me. Every time I visit a new country or town and get a chance to check out some ruins, my mind automatically starts wondering who lived there, what was their life like, how did the ruins fall into disrepair, etc. If only stone could talk ...

Castle Hanstein
Hanstein Castle, Germany
Photo by Earkle

Mayan ruins at Uxmal
Photo by Joanna Poe

ruins from above
Ruins of Gedi, Kenya
Photo by meaduva

Ayutthaya, Thailand
Photo by Jeffery Beggerly

Gunkanjima island
Gunkanjima (Hashima) Island
Photo by Kenta Mabuchi

Tanzania - Zanzibar
Ruins in Zanzibar
Photo by Marc Veraart

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Study in Germany for free

Idstein "schiefes Haus"
A building in Idstein, Germany,
near where my father lives
Photo by R G K
What? Studying for free in Norway didn't make your socks roll up and down? Then give Germany a try! Not only are German universities excellent (and looking great on a CV), but as Sophie Perl explained in that article:
I think the biggest factor is financial. In the US a graduate programme would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in Germany it doesn't cost anything. And it doesn't cost more for foreign students than it does for German students.

Many German universities have adopted English as the international language, meaning you could graduate without learning German! (Not that I would recommend this). Also, from what I understand, German student visas give you the right to work for 90 days out of the year.

I know some countries grant residency permits to people after they've graduated. I'll try to dig in more to find out if Germany handles this.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cousin Alice

Another morning trying to calm a sick baby, so here's a video of Cousin Alice, the woman who sang at our wedding at Tower Bridge in London.

She's fantastic and needs more people to hear about her.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Overseas Exile Video Blog?

I've been toying with the idea of also making a video blog to accompany this written blog. I think there are plenty of creative ideas I could better express, but there are significant technical challenges, not the least of which is that I don't know video editing. The closest I've ever come to this is the following. It's a promo I wrote for a Portuguese conference while I was living in London. There were a couple of different locations proposed for the conference and I was contacted and asked if I'd send a short video explaining why the conference needed to be in Lisbon, Portugal. It's rather geeky, so no worries if you don't "get" the humor (if you get the humor, no worries if you don't find it funny).

Not only did Portugal get to host the conference, my then girlfriend joined me in Portugal. The photo below is shortly after I proposed and she said yes. It was taken in the courtyard of the castle of São Jorge, with the lovely city of Lisbon, Portugal in the background.

Shortly after she said "yes".

So, back to the topic at hand. The video above is clearly not very professional, though my brother and I had quite a bit of fun (and alcohol) making it. I enjoyed writing the script, but because I didn't know how to edit video, we had to do it all in one take. Later, I learned a touch about video editing and at the request of the conference organizers, I put together the outtakes (warning, foul language ahead):

Now I'm using iMovie '09 (hey, it's free and came with my Mac!) and am learning more about transitions, timelines, cut-aways, title sequences, and finding it's a far more time-consuming task than I thought. I will have to:

  • Come up with an idea
  • Write a script
  • Assemble the media
  • Film it
  • Put it all together

As it turns out, that's really, really time-consuming, particularly as I'm teaching myself how to do this and I still have to spend time with my wife and newborn daughter (they obviously have priority), write this blog, and other commitments. Plus, I have a couple of domain names I'll need to register first, just to have things a touch more professional.

I don't know when (or if) I'll have the first videos available, but they'll largely track the opening articles I've had on this blog simply because people need to know about Count von Europe, getting their papers in order, and, of course, the work permit series.

So if you have any comments or suggestions, I welcome them. Particularly if you can point me to any legal issues that video blogs should be aware of and sources of public domain material I can use (particularly video clips).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ireland for a year?

Back in 2008, Ireland and the USA signed a new agreement allowing each others students to come and work in their countries for up to 12 months. Unlike many other student or working holiday agreements with countries, this one doesn't appear to have age restrictions attached to it; you simply have to be in post-secondary education or have graduated within the last 12 months.

This is not a permanent relocation (I suppose it could be if you married your way into the country) and I don't know if it can be converted into a long-term visa, but it would tell you pretty quickly if you're cut out for the expat life.

Not a very "Irish" photo, but it's me on a ferry to Dublin
In addition to the education requirements, you'll have to have some money saved (at least €1,500), have a return plane ticket (you can skip the return ticket if you have €3,000), and have medical insurance. There's also the standard list of "don'ts":

  • Don't be a felon
  • Don't use drugs
  • Don't have been deported from somewhere
  • Don't suffer from communicable diseases

You will want to check their application for for this program (pdf) to get a better idea of what they're looking for.

If you take this opportunity, may I suggest checking out Ireland outside of Dublin? The folks I've met in Dublin were very friendly, but the city itself is not particularly attractive and there's a lot more to Ireland than Dublin.

Note that this is not the same as the Irish working holiday program, a program only open to citizens of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Photo Collection: Water

Megisti (Kastellorizo)
Megisti (Kastellorizo), Greece
Photo by alljengi
Tahiti (
Photo by

Beach angle
Faro, Portugal
Photo by Justin Hall

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul
Basilica Cistern, Istanbul
Photo by Garrett Ziegler

fontana di trevi [trevi fountain] 3.15.10 - 81
Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
Photo by Laura Padgett

Drinking Water
Drinking Water, Koundara, Guinea, West Africa
Photo by ccarlstead

Thursday, March 3, 2011

So much for being an air courier

Not much of a blog post today due to a colicky baby, but that's not too bad. I was going to write something up about cheap or free international flights, but it turns out the industry is pretty much dead.

Airplane over ocean.
Photo by Colleen Lane
What used to happen is that companies would desperately need something shipped quickly overseas, but with typical freight companies, there would often be lengthy delays in shipping or clearing the items through customs. However, passengers generally aren't held for days or weeks waiting to pick up their luggage, so you'd register as a courier and generally not be allowed to check luggage, but you'd get a carry-on and a cheap (sometimes free) ticket.

Unfortunately, with an increasingly interconnected world, many customs procedures are now expedited and overnight delivery companies have made it cheaper and faster to skip couriers. The industry isn't entirely dead, but it's heading that way. Oh, and be wary of companies which make you register and pay a fee to be a courier. Often they're merely reselling bulk airline tickets that you can get better deals on by hitting discounts airlines.

Of course, if Ryanair is ever successful in their plans to bring €10 flights from the US to Europe, being a courier would be a moot point.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Study in Norway for free!

OK, I confess that this one really caught me off guard. I am constantly seeking new ways for people to emigrate to other countries and I've found one of the most surprising: study in Norway for free!

Oslo, Norway
Photo by Allan Harris
Most Norwegian universities are publicly funded and, as a result, charge no tuition. This includes foreigners! Yes, there's a catch: though many classes are in English, you'll have to learn Norwegian. However, this means that if you can manage to stay in Norway (legally) for three years, you can get permanent residency.

Aside from being accepted at a university, you do have to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency while you are there. At this time, it means demonstrating that you have saved 85,000 NOK (about $15,000 US) per 10 month year of study. Financial aid is available in the form of scholarships and loans.

So if you really want out and you're academically minded, learn to speak Norwegian!

Update: this blog post appears to have great information about emigrating to Norway.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Learn a language for free!

If you're going to live in another country, there's a good chance you'll want to know the local language. Unfortunately, there are some awful language resources out there, including some which are little more than expensive, yet well-marketed toilet paper. They can be hard to evaluate because few people take the time to learn many different languages or to evaluate the different methods. Here's what I've picked up from both personal experience, research, and talking to others familiar with this area. I'll focus first on the free resources.

They teach languages very well.
My first recommendation would have to be the Foreign Service Institute courses. These are the same courses the US government uses to train their diplomats. Due to how US law works, material produced by the US government, unless it's classified, is generally public domain (unlike the feudal crown copyright system in the UK which hampered some of my work when I worked for the BBC). This means that, for free, you can learn French, German, or Spanish, but also a wealth of lesser known languages such as Swahili or Twi.  Sadly, not all of the courses at that site are complete, but for the languages you'll likely need, they are.

For online resources, one company has created Livemocha, an interesting attempt to combine social networks and language learning. It's free (though there are many advanced services you can pay for) and you work through a series of lessons in your target language. They help you with spelling, grammar and pronunciation and then you ask friends or strangers to correct your work. My wife isn't keen on the site as she claims that (for French) many "native" speakers were giving incorrect advice. You can rate the advice you receive, but since you presumably don't know the language you're studying, it's hard to know if the advice is sound. Also, all languages start out with the same standard set of words and while they may teach you the language, the starting vocabulary ("I am a boy!") isn't helpful in day-to-day situations. Still, it's a free and it's fun and I hope they continue.

For discussions about learning languages, you should check out This is basically a huge message board for those who love to learn languages. They're pretty down on traditional classroom learning (something which I think can work better than they claim), but they have speakers of a huge variety of languages and, more importantly, they can point out some of the more useless language learning material out there. Check out their FAQ for a great overview of the site and about language learning in general. Sadly, some of the more important links on that FAQ are broken, but you can sign up on that site for free and search for what you need.

If you want to spend money on learning a language, I have some recommendations. First, you probably never heard of it, but you must check out Assimil. Originally developed in France to teach English to French people, it turns out to be an incredibly well-regarded method of teaching languages, even if you're studying on your own. It has a "passive" phase followed by an "active" phase after a couple of months. It consists of daily half-hour self-study lessons and it's fun. Also, perhaps because they don't have to pay the huge marketing budget which some companies do, they're a fantastic value for the money.

Of course, the well-known Pimsleur method has to be mentioned here. It focuses almost entirely on spoken language, so you'll have trouble reading and writing. You'll also only develop a small vocabulary of perhaps 500 words at the end. However, that vocabulary should be perfect. Your pronunciation should be excellent and you should also have a good handle on the grammar. Few courses get pronunciation right the way Pimsleur does. I often see it recommended as a great supplement to your primary course.

Be careful and do your research about language learning courses. Many of them have great reviews around the 'net because either people don't know better or, in at least one case I've heard of (but don't want to get sued over), they have a lot of web "affiliates" who say nice things about them. Money appears to change hands. As a general rule, the more marketing is involved, the more suspect I think you should be.