Name: Rae Ann Broussard
Hometown: I consider Baton Rouge, Louisiana my hometown. However, I have lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, (just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) for the past 20 years.
Current City: Helsinki, Finland
Why did you decide to move abroad?: My husband received a Fulbright Award as a Distinguished Professor. Accepting the award meant he had to be in Finland a minimum of 5 months.
How did you decide where to move?: We had no choice really, since the Fulbright was for a research position at the Hanken School of Economics located in Helsinki, Finland. Although we couldn’t choose the city, we were able to choose our apartment and the neighborhood. We had been to Helsinki before and had an idea of where we would like to live. We made a list of priorities for the apartment (such as 1 bedroom, ability to have guests sleep over, washer/dryer, dishwasher and close proximity to mass transit). After several weeks of emails back and forth with our university contact and a realtor we were able to decide upon an apartment. During the process we consulted with our Finnish friends for their impressions of the neighborhoods and google maps to get a ‘feel’ for the area.
What was the process you had to go thru to move?: The first thing I had to do was wrap my head around the idea. My husband had applied for the Fulbright a year or more prior to receiving it. He had told me he applied; but I had forgotten…so the prospect of moving abroad hit me like a ton of bricks. Did this mean I had to quit my job? What were we going to do for money, especially if we lost my income? Would I have to search for a new job upon my return? What were we to do about the house? Could we take our dogs? If not, who would care for them while we were abroad? What about my girls? Whom would be there to help them (should they need it), while I was so far away? What about my mother? What about my medication (I have a chronic condition that requires daily medication…lots of it)? Could I bring my medication with me? Could my medication be shipped to me? Or would I have to find a doctor in Finland to prescribe the medication? What about health insurance?! YIKES!!!
Once I had decided that I was going, I made a list of all of the things I needed to do; first of which was to tackle my employment situation. I formulated several scenarios that allowed me to continue to add value to my employer while abroad. I discussed these with my management team. In the end, we all thought it best that I take a leave of absence. Next up was determining what to do with the house and dogs. We decided that a house sitter that loved dogs was the best scenario. We were extremely lucky to find one without much effort. It’s working out beautifully. She lives in the house and takes care of the dogs. Next, I worked on the medication issue. The Fulbright website indicated that I should take all the medication I would need for the duration of my stay with me. After working with my doctors and my health insurance provider, I was able to obtain all of the medication I’d need while I was in Finland. However, after doing all of this, I found out that Finland only allows a 3 month supply of medication to be brought into the country…and I had a 7 month supply. So after speaking with the TSA, the Finnish Immigration Service and the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) I now knew all the rules and regulations and what I’d need to do to continue to have access to my medication while abroad. No worries.
LESSON: Check with the immigration department of the country you are moving to regarding medication you will need. Each country has different rules, regulations and exemptions. Know how your current health insurance plan will work while you are abroad; or have a plan for coverage in your host country.This will save you time, effort and lower your stress level.
What’s your favorite thing about living abroad?: My favorite things about living abroad are the people I meet, friends I’ve made, beautiful sites and wonderful experiences. It’s really given me a broader sense of the world.
And what’s the hardest thing?: There are degrees of hardship. I miss talking to my mother on a daily basis. I miss my daughters. I miss my dogs (all 4 of them). And finally, I will miss college football season. I’m streaming the games. Due to the time difference, the games air between 1:00 AM and 6:30 AM in Helsinki. You can imagine what this does to my sleep pattern!
How did you find a job(s): I am lucky that I won’t have to work while here. For someone who’s worked all her adult life, filling the days can sometimes be a challenge. Sure, I can sight-see like a tourist…but I must be smart about my expenditures, since we lost my income…. I took two Finnish language courses. I read, run errands, cook simple meals, walk around the city and plan our excursions to other cities and countries.
What do you wish you brought?: My full set of hot rollers! The travel set I have doesn’t quite style my hair the way I like. I could buy a replacement full set here, but the plug won’t work back in the states. Plus they are very expensive in Helsinki!
What do you wish you left at home?: My workout gear! I brought DVDs, sneakers, resistance bands etc. My plan was to workout in the mornings to help fill my days. I only began to use them mid-October. I’m sure I could have devised a workout plan without lugging all of this stuff here.
What have you learned: I’ve learned that I can live and be happy with a smaller wardrobe (don’t tell my husband!) and fewer possessions in a smaller space.
Any advice for others looking to move abroad?: Don’t be afraid to take the leap. It will be an experience you will treasure for the rest of your life.
Any other comments: see medication Lesson above
Would you move abroad for your partner or spouse?