One question I am asked quite a lot from people is how I moved to the UAE – how did I come to be here, why did I do it, how did I get a job here and so on. There’s a lot of curiosity surrounding my overseas move(s!), especially from those who have never done anything like it before, and those who would really like to do it – so here’s my UAE story…
I was living and working in London after I graduated, and I just really loved the idea of moving overseas. I suppose you could say it was inevitable since I’d always been fascinated by the idea of travelling and my family had always moved around a fair bit themselves. I have two older brothers, both of whom were born in Northern Ireland but spent a few years living in the USA when my Mum and Dad moved out there with my Dad’s job before I was born. One of my brothers was also already living and working overseas at the time in Hong Kong too, so I suppose this probably just fuelled my desire and realisation that these things were actually possible, somehow – though I still had no idea how to actually make it happen.
I remember trying to find out information on how to do it myself – there were so many questions! How could I find a job? How can you work in a country where English isn’t the first language? How do you get a work visa overseas? Wouldn’t it cost a lot to move? I still had student loans and debts to pay off so there was no way I could consider just leaving my job and flying off to a country of my choice and trying to find a job when I got there – I couldn’t even have afforded the plane ticket without putting it on a credit card! Where would I even begin to look to find out the answers to these questions?! It all just seemed so difficult and mysterious, something that only ‘other’ people do, so I completely understand when people ask me the question of ‘how’.
The reality is that there’s loads of ways to do it, and it’s even easier than ever to find out how with all the information we have at our fingertips on the internet. If it’s something that you really want to do, you’ll find a way to make it happen!
I’d come across a couple of overseas job opportunities in the press and applied for them, but they didn’t work out at first. I was messed around a bit at the interview process by one particular company and that really put me off – I decided that if I was feeling confused and let down already that I really didn’t want to be working for a company like that at all! I mean, if they were like that now – what would they be like if I was actually working for them?!
I also spent many lunchtimes browsing the travel reference section in the bookshop reading books about how to live and work overseas and decided that another way I could make my overseas dream come true was by doing a course to learn to teach English as a foreign language – that would be one way to travel and still make money. The trouble was though, that the best, most reputable courses were expensive, but I decided it was well worth the investment and applied to do a teaching English as a foreign language (CELTA) course part-time at International House London which not only had the best reputation but was also closest to my work place. The course took place in the evenings and weekends and I was able to do it (with a lot of late nights studying and planning!) while I was still working full-time in the media industry to pay for it. Looking back, I probably actually saved money over that period because I didn’t have the time to go out much any more! I really enjoyed the course and gained my pass, now my plan was just to save a bit of money, and keep my eye out for the right job.
Despite wanting to live overseas, I was actually in a very happy place in London at that point (aside from always being skint), I had great friends, I was doing a job I loved (though it seemed to me it had no prospects for progression) and I had a great relationship with my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t want to leave behind. I didn’t think too much about the situation with my boyfriend though, although he had supported me in my decision to do my TEFL course and also supported me through the duration whilst I was busy working during the day and then studying at night, I knew that things would work out regardless if they were meant to, and I wasn’t going to throw away a dream for anyone – no matter how good things were. If he was a keeper he’d stick by me and understand.
I suppose life just went on from there, I hadn’t seen a teaching job that really fired me up and I also knew I’d be taking a pay cut to leave my job at the time to teach, so with student loans still to pay off I was hesitant. It wasn’t until about a year later in fact that things started to take a new direction – I was browsing the media press at work one day when I saw a job in Dubai advertised. It seemed as though it had my name all over it – it perfectly matched my media experience and was just too good an opportunity not to go for, although of course I had a million questions myself at that point!
In short, I decided to apply for the job – I told my boyfriend, and he agreed with my logic that I might as well go for it and if I ended up getting it we’d figure things out then – and that was it – I sent off my application. To cut a long story short, after a couple of telephone interviews I was offered that job (the company would fly me out and provide a working visa for me) and before I knew it, my bags were packed and I was on the plane to Dubai.
And that’s it – it really was as simple as that! Right place at the right time perhaps, who knows. As it also turned out, not long after I’d been offered the job in Dubai, the company my boyfriend was working for announced they were going to be opening a branch in Dubai, and job adverts went up internally looking for staff to relocate! I remember that it wasn’t until the day of my leaving do with my friends in London that he found out he had been successful in securing a position with them in Dubai – what a relief! I had already been booked on that plane regardless, still with the view that we would figure something out if the worst came to the worst – he could always follow me out later and look for a job after arriving in the country if he needed to – but it certainly seemed like everything just fell into place and was meant to be.
I flew out to Dubai in November 2006 and started work two days after I landed – on my birthday of all days! My boyfriend’s job wasn’t due to start until February 2007, so he stayed behind and continued working in London for those first few months and came to visit me at Christmas which is when we got engaged – yep, that understanding and supportive boyfriend at the time was who you know now as Mr. Arabian Notes!
It’s a funny thing really, once you have done it once – the whole world seems to open up for you and nothing ever seems quite so hard again. I guess it’s just a realisation that anything really is possible and that nothing is as difficult as it might first seem. My advice to anyone considering an overseas move but who doesn’t know how to go about it would be just to do it – read books about options for living and working overseas, start looking for jobs online and in your industry press, maybe take a course if that’s what you need to secure a different job, talk to people who’ve done it and find out their story – there are loads of people who just get on a plane in the hope of finding a job once they arrive and many of them are successful. Learn about the country you want to live in and the process for working there but don’t let it put you off if it seems like there’s lots of red tape… at the end of the day, just start keeping your eyes open for what you want and you’ll make it happen one way or another, it’ll all just come together bit by bit if it’s something you really want!
And that’s it! Hopefully that answers the question about my journey to live overseas. If there’s anything else you want to know do feel free to let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!