First year abroad: 2014 emigrants on letting go of Ireland

At the start of the year we spoke to people preparing to emigrate. Here we catch up with them, to see how they are getting on in their new homes

 

At the start of the year we spoke to people preparing to emigrate. Here we catch up with them, to see how they are getting on in their new homes. Read their original pre-departure interviews (with video) here, and a mid-year catch-up on their first few months abroad here.  

‘Leaving has been the best decision we could have made’

Sarah Tharakan
The 32-year-old Irish and American citizen arrived in San Francisco in April with her husband, Nithin, who had lined up a job at the headquarters of the company he worked for in Dublin “I have a friend who moves around a lot who said emigrating will never be what you imagine it will be; for better or worse it will be different. He was so right. I had so many expectations for this year. I thought we would have explored California more. I thought I would be more homesick.

“For the first few months I concentrated on getting everything we needed for the flat and making sure our immigration papers were sorted.

“Now we’re about to enter our first full year here. We are “settled” in that our apartment is furnished, I know my way around, I have found a job and my husband is settled into his workplace. It is only now that I am starting to realise the things I am missing about home, the things I don’t miss.

“I’m working part time in a Japanese retailer, Itoya. Work was the easy thing for both of us. I know we were lucky, because I have a US passport, and my husband has a work-sponsored visa.

“Family and friends are what we miss most about home. But I am in touch with them on a daily basis. Most of my phone apps are some kind of instant-messenger or call service. That has helped to combat homesickness.

“If things go wrong at home, that’s when it is hardest. My elderly uncle came back for an unexpected visit from Zimbabwe, and I automatically assumed the worst. But after several frantic texts to my sister I found out that he was only home for a minor eye operation.

“I now realise things like that are going to happen more and more the longer we stay here. People are going to get ill. There will be emergencies. And I am going to have to wait it out. I never contemplated how hard that was going to be.

“I don’t see us coming home within the next five years. We are on the move and are now thinking, Where else? I would like to make my way back to Europe eventually, somewhere a short flight from home.

“Starting a whole new life in your 30s is a huge challenge. But, for us, leaving has been the best decision we could have made.”

 

‘I’m feeling settled and optimistic about my future here’

Brian Sheehy
The 28-year-old from Baltimore, Co Cork, quit his job in insurance in Dublin to move to Toronto in March. When he last spoke to The Irish Times, in May, he had just found a place to live and started a new job at Allianz “For the first few months I focused on getting settled and tried not to think about how I was feeling. It was a difficult period, looking for a job and a house and trying to meet new people while living out of a backpack in a hostel.

 

“I got into the swing of things when I started work. Having a routine, making friends through work and being able to look forward to socialising at the weekend gave my life structure. I had a great summer, going to concerts, festivals and sporting events. I spent everything I had, but it was worth it.

“I met a lot of really nice Irish people in the hostels when I arrived, but they would move on, and I found that hard. My approach now is to look at the bigger picture. I’ve met Canadian friends through work, as well as people from Argentina, Lebanon, Africa and Asia.

“I miss my family and friends, but I don’t pine for other things from home. My attitude is that I’m in a different part of the world and should embrace the differences. That said, I’m looking forward to a decent cup of tea and my mum’s baking when I get home for Christmas.

“I will have to decide whether to apply for permanent residency in the next six months, because the process takes a long time.

“This time last year I was preparing to hand in my notice, and there was so much uncertainty going into 2014. I’m now feeling settled and optimistic about my future here.”

 

‘My sense of belonging to Ireland is already beginning to fade’

Sarah Doran
The 24-year-old graduated with a degree in speech and language therapy from Trinity College Dublin last year. She moved to Berkshire, in England, in February, to work with children with communication needs through the NHS “It is now a year since I interviewed for my job. My biggest achievement that day was figuring out the London transport network and making it to my interview on time. Never in a million years did I think I would get the job and be living England now.

“My job continues to be extremely rewarding. I am getting brilliant experience, have learned a huge amount from my team and have already had further training.

“Outside work, I have continued my mission to visit as many interesting places as possible, from Bath to Bournemouth, Cardiff to Canterbury. I have also moved house from sleepy Maidenhead to bustling Reading, where there is much more to see and do, and rail links to all over the country.

“Being forced to leave my comfort zone entirely was terrifying, but ultimately it was the right decision. I never would have chosen to start my career in a different country. But I have coped with emigration better than I could ever have imagined.

“After only 10 months away from Dublin I am already falling out of step with friends and family at home. I read the newspapers, but I am removed from what is happening in Ireland. I’m not taking part in the Irish Water protests, I won’t be able to vote in the marriage referendum, and I’m no longer one of the many unemployed young Irish people. My sense of belonging to Ireland is already beginning to fade, along with my Irish accent.”

Read our "2014 emigrants" original pre-departure interviews (with video) here, and a mid-year catch-up on their first few months abroad here

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