-Written by Mandy & Julia
- Pick and choose carefully when packing those boxes.
o Consider the climate carefully and realistically. If you’re moving to the UK like we did, you might as well leave behind those flip-flops, bathing suits, shorts and sundresses. This girl paid to move all those things, only to end up stuffing them in a suitcase headed back to the US for the holidays.
o Pack lightly. Are you really going to need all those t-shirts? Could you purchase Tupperware more cheaply than moving it? Sure that crystal vase is nice, but really?
o On the other hand, I wish I had brought our wedding album and that quilt that has been in the family for three generations. Those extra special items will bring comfort when homesickness hits.
- Don’t put off the paperwork.
o If you need residence permits or visas, know the requirements and get started early. Unless you want to be like us, running through the streets of downtown Chicago during the two hour time slot you have before your friend’s wedding in order to get a same day passport.
- Brace yourself for the (extra) cost.
o There are layers and layers of fees and unexpected costs, from setting up Internet to paying for a TV license (what? a license to watch TV?). Make room for this in your budget.
o A furnished flat/apartment could come without a kitchen table. You’ll probably need some extra cash for that trip to Ikea or Walmart [insert local substitute here].
o When you’ve first arrived and you’re exhausted, emotionally and physically, it may be worth grabbing a taxi and throwing your grand plan of walking the last mile and a half to your new apartment out the window instead.
- Investigate your destination city.
o Don’t settle on a mover or a bank or a grocery store until you ask for others’ experiences, even if they are strangers on the Internet (You’ve struck gold if your destination city happens to be featured on The Graduate Wife’s survival guide section.).
o Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as your elementary school teacher once told you. Seriously, others have gone before you. Seek them out and get some help settling.
Dealing with Internal Battles:
We came here for the purpose of my husband’s education, and that education came at a cost for both of us, and for our family and friends back home. I had wholeheartedly agreed to this new adventure prior to our coming, and I plunged into the job-hunt and life-making once we landed in Scotland (okay, so I cried for the first couple days).
What felt romantic and adventurous while still living in the US, however, quickly became hard. Figuring out a new culture, going through the process of student teaching in Scotland and again in England (since my American credential didn’t transfer) and enduring a climate that happens to have really hard, dark, wet winters were some of the challenges. Add to that the fact that we moved from Scotland to England to Germany and back to England within three years, and I was tired. Really tired. And my emotional trap was to blame my husband, as if the challenges surrounding the decision to study abroad were his doing. It hasn’t been easy to work through my misplaced anger when enduring a particularly tough season.
The best advice I can give is to turn off the DVD player and start talking. Work through it, regardless of how hard the conversation is. Otherwise, the bitterness is at risk of festering and creating resentment. My companion on this journey is my husband, the one who was by my side through every move and bad day at work and hard winter – we must work hard to protect and enrich our alliance. Without his companionship, I simply could not do this another day.
Simplifying your life:
My brother once asked me if it was true that European and British residents rode bicycles to work and often wore the same outfit twice in one week. Emphatically, I said “yes, and it’s awesome” (okay, maybe a slightly smug exaggeration, but still).
Six years living here, and we may have a tinge of this beautiful outlook on material possessions: you don’t need much to live comfortably. Of course, this outlook is not confined to Europe. Anyone on a student budget can tell you that saving money wherever you can breeds simplicity. This is refreshing, and it is conveniently conducive to the student lifestyle.
So, grab a bike and wear that ten-year-old pair of jeans without a second thought, and do it every single day.
Holding on to your own dreams:
So if you are the one putting your husband or wife through school, it may be the case that a dream of your own has been put on hold. For me, I’d like to go back to school. My husband’s doctorate and six years later, this dream has not been realized.
I’ve come, however, to understand that waiting to pursue one’s dreams doesn’t have to mean that they diminish, ‘dry up’ or even ‘explode’ as Langston Hughes famously penned. Rather, the waiting has refined my goal, changed its direction and enriched its beauty. The dream deferred can turn into an aging wine rather than a raisin in the sun. And in this space of waiting, I’ve seen other aspirations blossom and flourish: having children and starting a family, establishing traditions of our own, getting to know another culture.
If you could pass along any lessons learned in your own graduate wife journey, what would they be, and why?