I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately – especially as Module C ended, and I’ve rotated from the London campus to San Francisco. How do you rebuild your life when you’ve left an old one behind in a different country?
I moved to London to pursue my Master of International Marketing. My fellow students were a motley crew of acquaintances, until I found myself feeling more and more settled. I asked myself, “what’s changed?” So I put together a handful of tips for moving abroad (this is more of a “soft skills” list than a tactical one) – especially as I’ve had a couple of prospective students, incoming students, and friends ask for tips on moving to a different continent. Call them “best practices,” or just some good advice.
1. Know that you’re never “ready”. You’ll repack your bag at least four times and you’ll forget at least five things. “Man, if only I had that *insert item of clothing/or piece of loved junk here*.” It’s OK. It’s just stuff, you can buy/sell/replace stuff. Or friends can bring you beloved items when they visit you.
2. Take people up on their offers of friendship. If your cousin, friend, colleague, casual acquaintance, barista or dry cleaner offer to connect you with a friend or relative of theirs – TAKE IT! You never know. So-and-so’s BFF from when they were 12 could turn out to be your favorite brunch buddy in a new place. It’s like when you see that a friend knows people you know from a different sphere of life on Facebook. You can usually count on friends of friends to be vetted, which means they are less likely to be cray cray.
3. We all hate “cold calling” people, but get over it. Email those weak tie potential friends. Go to a Meetup, and then judge whether or not you want to join from a corner in the bar. If the Meetup is lame, make friends with the bartender (strategic friendship).
4. Chat with Hult strangers. Some of my favorite people at Hult are in different programs (MBA, MFIN, MIB). Strike up a conversation, join a club or attend school events. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people who may have chosen a different course of study.
5. Be prepared to put some work in. Friendships and business relationships take effort. You need to put some time and love into fostering your new connections. Check in to see how people are doing by email, text or phone. Whether or not you can get together, it shows you’re thinking of them, and this can go a long way.
That’s my poetic waxing on connecting with new people in a new, international environment. Most importantly, figure out what kind of support you need and then go after it; people can’t read minds (really, most can’t), and no one will magically appear on your doorstep to give you a hug when you need one.
It’s up to you and only you to shape the kind of life you want in your new environment. You may be far from home and your hometown friends, but you’ve also got an amazing opportunity at your fingertips. Be kind to yourself, be brave, and take some risks.
And take a listen to Jack White’s rendition of “I can tell that we are going to be friends”.
Nancy Hitzig is a Canadian Master of International Marketing candidate living in London, and briefly sojourning in San Francisco. Previously, Nancy ran an emerging opera company and fundraised for a national not-for-profit. She also happens to be an international award-winning lindy hop instructor and performer.
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