Third World Engineers VIII: Romancing the Visa
Game Development, Romance, Mobile Apps, Sorcery, Intrigue, Keyword, Other Keyword, Dogs
For a lot of people, the idea of studying/living abroad is just one more item in the checklist of their life’s plan. They’ll go abroad for a semester, a year, or more, sink themselves elbow-deep(or nail deep in some cases) into a new culture, experience new sensations, points of view, food, friends, lovers, to finally come home and then proceed to not shut up about it for the rest of their lives. E.g.:
“This [ETHNIC_DISH] is good, but not as good as the one I had in [CAPITAL/MAJOR CITY] at this darling little [LOCAL_NAME_FOR_A_NEIGHBOURHOOD_EATERY].”
This article is not for those kinds of people. This is for the people who want to go further, and for whatever reason, want to leave their own countries behind. With particular relevance for those of us who come from the third world AKA developing countries, less developed countries or underdeveloped countries.
These items are presented in no particular order whatsoever.
Education is a grand thing
It is indeed possible to get a worker’s visa without first studying in that particular country and I know several people who excelled as professionals in their home nation and that allowed them to get a job abroad.
That being said, getting a degree in the country you wish to migrate to will grant you several advantages:
- It will give you a chance to explore and help make that final decision of staying.
- You’ll get to practice your language skills in an environment filled with other people who are also learning.
- Universities will often have facilities and support for foreign students.
- When getting a work visa, some countries will take into account if you earned a degree in the country, and will make it easier for your prospective employer to submit the visa application. In most cases, this takes the form of your employer not having to prove that there is a local candidate that is equally qualified.
Assuming it’s a possibility, I’d suggest finishing your Engineering or CS bachelor’s degree or equivalent in your home country. You can then earn a master’s degree or a professional certificate in your target country. Why a master’s or a certificate? Well, they tend to be shorter and therefore cheaper, and you get the added bonus of getting a bit of an advantage in your CV.
If you come from a developing country, more likely than not, it is or was a colony of some kind. Sometimes in the very recent past. Do research on whether the former colonial power offers any sort of advantages for citizens of former colonies.
For example, if you live legally in Spain and you happen to be from a Latin American country, you’ll be able to apply for Spanish(and most important EU) citizenship in just two years instead of the usual ten.
Finally, this is going to be a recurring theme during this article, but it’s an important point nonetheless: DO RESEARCH! When choosing where to study, make sure that whatever institution you choose is fully accredited and that they deliver at least passable education.
You will find “schools” that cater to immigrants just wishing to get a student visa, some of them even cater to specific nationalities or ethnicities. Do not fall for this. I’m not saying that all of them are scams, but believe me when I tell you, that your “Teaching English as a Second Language” certificate will most likely not impress prospective employers. You would be better off taking even a smaller course at a decent institution than an MBA from a diploma mill.
I fought the law and the law won… Then the law beat me senseless
Obey the law. It sounds so very simple, right? And in general, it is. But there are a couple of things you might forget while you’re exploring your new country, so here are a couple of reminders:
- Yes, I know, where you come from, you can walk into any store and buy cigarettes, liquor, marijuana, and a gallon of acid without showing an ID. Hell, your father sent you to the store for these things every single day. But, depending on where you live now, some of these things might require an ID to prove you are over 16,18,19,21, etc… or they’re illegal.
I cannot emphasise this enough, stay away from purchasing illegal substances, whatever they might be. Depending on where you are, the justice system might be incredibly lenient. In Germany, you might not even be prosecuted for small quantities of cannabis, while in France cannabis possession nets you a 200 EUR fine. Or it could be ridiculously harsh. In Japan, you can get up to 5 years in jail for possession. Japan also has a conviction rate of 99.9% and a justice system that is notoriously aggressive against foreigners, so skipping that smoking session with Ryoko/Kenji, regardless of how kawaii they might be, is probably a good idea.
This is going to sound incredibly harsh, and there are many officers who are truly invested in the wellbeing of all citizens, but in general, the police are not on your side. Like most people, they’re on their own side and interested in furthering their own objectives. Depending on where you are from, you might already be aware of this, but it bears repeating. If you do have to interact with officers, remember: be polite, be brief, know your rights, and know what officers can/cannot do. And if for whatever reason you’re arrested, do not cooperate and lawyer up immediately.
Depending on where you are from, you might be used to an incredibly corrupt bureaucracy. Where if you bribe one paper-pusher or the other even with very small amounts of money, things will get done quicker. Do not try this in your new home. In most developed nations, low ranking bureaucrats are kept under constant surveillance to prevent corruption. I’m not saying corruption doesn’t exist in these countries, but it usually happens at a much higher level.
The above might seem like I’m being a wee bit of a killjoy, but remember, you’re here for the long haul. Having entanglements with the law or even worse, convictions, might prevent you from staying. It will also hurt your chances to migrate to other countries if you ever decide to.
I’m not going to eat that
Your new home will be a gateway to exciting new experiences, some of these will be fun exciting and some will be scary exciting. However much of the local culture you experience, and there should be at least some, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- The country you are coming from might be more conservative than the country you’re moving to. Or, they could be more conservative in certain things like nudity, and more liberal in others like drugs. The important thing is to, once again, do your research. Make sure that the place you’re moving to, somewhat generally matches your personal convictions. If there are things with which you do not agree, then be ready to make that compromise.
Avoid politics. No. Seriously, avoid politics. Getting involved in the politics of a country where you can’t really participate is like preparing a romantic dinner for a couple you don’t even know. You’d be doing a lot of work just to not get shagged. Once you get your citizenship/residence, feel free to go out and get involved all you want.
Jumping off of that last point. Try and not to be overly critical. I know that commiserating with people about shared difficulties can create a bond. But it’s sometimes difficult to know where the line might be that will take someone from enjoying the conversation to giving you the stink-eye.
On the other hand, don’t blind yourself to a country's faults. No country or society is perfect, and most countries have a chequered past. Some in the very recent past. You can embrace a country’s traditions and history, and still be conscious of its faults. You can both admire Canada for its healthcare infrastructure, and be appalled by the Indian residential school system which sought to erase First Nation’s identity through the separation of children from their families.
You don’t need to become an expert in your new country’s history, you should be fine with just a High School level of knowledge. Pro-tip: Used high school texts are cheap, everywhere, and meant to be understood easily. Get a copy of a senior national history textbook and go wild.
Have fun! It’s fine if you don’t care much about history, but definitely try to explore the local culture farther than a tourist would. Learn how to Morris dance, take cooking classes, read national authors, cheer for local sports teams, this is what will help you to develop a stronger sense of belonging. Which will be vital once the shine of the new experience you’re having has worn off.
Could you repeat that again, please?
Regardless of your level of proficiency with the language, you should never stop learning, even if you think you’re good enough. Right after your appearance, how you sound will shape how people think of you.
And research has shown that a non-native accent makes people believe you’re less competent. So don’t be afraid to try and master the local accent and parlance. If you find that it’s too hard, consider taking accent lessons.
I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but if it’s any consolation, there is no better feeling than meeting someone new and them not even suspect that you’re an immigrant due to your language skills. Here are some tips to help you along:
- Consume media, and I mean local media. If you’re living in New Zealand, but only watch American TV shows, you’re going to end up sounding like just some bloke from California. Or if you live in Montreal, but only watch French media, you’ll never master Quebecois. If for whatever reason the country you’re in doesn’t produce a lot of TV shows or cinema, you can always listen to the radio. Talk shows in particular will give you a good sense of how the locals talk.
I mentioned this in the previous section but read local/national authors. Not only will you get a better understanding of the national zeitgeist, you will also learn vocabulary that you might not encounter elsewhere.
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?
Migrating is not easy. It takes a toll. Cultural identity is difficult to pin down and after years spent abroad, you might sometimes feel that you don’t have a true home. You’re too A for B, but too B for A. Don’t be surprised if the things that you once thought were annoying about your home country, are now pleasantly quaint. It’s fine to miss your home country and its people. Think of it less as abandoning your home and more like acquiring a second one.
And finally, the one most important thing to remember is… DO RESEARCH! I mean, come one, you knew that was going to be it.
Featured image courtesy by Henry Thong.
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