Updated: Jan 31, 2021
We moved to Jamaica in 2017. Damion moved back first in April, Abiah and I moved in the Summer. We had just purchased a property back home with plans on constructing a new home in the summer of 2018. As a matter of fact, before he called me to discuss the new job opportunity, I was in the middle of drafting an email to the Architect we had earlier discussions with to design our home. I was beyond excited in the moment. I thought wow, this marriage stuff is going pretty well! We had been married for seven months then. *cue curveball*
‘You need to move back to Jamaica, I half asked with disbelief. While we visited 3 times before and I loved everything about Jamaica, I was not sure if I could see us living there-full time, worst I did not know if I would ever muster up the strength to drive there!
We weighed our options and discussed the pros and cons of moving or staying. Truth be told, I was very comfortable with my job and my life in Dominica and I knew I needed a challenge. I wrote weekly columns for our local newspaper; I owned a small business called Hair Essentials-selling luxury extension and I worked a 9-5 which did not challenge me anymore. Considering what we wanted for ourselves and Abiah in the long run the move, daunting as it was, would be best suited.
This was the biggest challenge yet, I cried every single day, alone in the bath or closet every evening, thinking about the move, leaving my friends and family behind. I moved away from home before, eight years prior, to do my first degree. It was my choice then. Now, I had other lives to consider and while my input was necessary, it was not solely my choice.
My mind was constantly racing so I created lists. List of everything I needed to get done before I left Dominica prior to moving with Abiah in the Summer.
If you are moving to a new island with your family soon, below are some helpful tips:
1. New school-Prepare a list of what you require from the school facility for your children. Do your research and make notes. Ask a lot of questions, even about trivial things. Having advice form others who have experience is helpful, but always do your own due diligence.
I knew we would be living in Kingston, and because it was a new territory for Abiah, we made the decision to send her to a private school. We listed the things we needed from her new school, and divided the list into negotiables and non-negotiables. Extra Curricular activities, After Care facilities, Class sizes, Lunch provisions, school exam pass rate, location, religion affiliates, foreign student population to name a few. After several google searches, I made a list of 10 prep schools in Kingston and called each one, asking the necessary questions and populating the excel sheet with responses. Doing this made it easier to decide which school to enroll her in.
2. New Job- Sign up to local news papers and online job sites. Do a course or degree at a local University if you are able.
By nature, I need to be occupied and stimulated or I become very cranky. Having to leave my job and business, I was determined not to be unemployed for too long, especially after being unemployed for a prolonged period after I moved back home from my studies. I scoured caribbeanjobs.com and signed up for the Sunday Gleaner to view job opportunities. I started applying to jobs four months before I moved. I emailed a copy of my resume to Damion, in-laws and a few of his friends I met while on vacation. I updated my LinkedIn profile, followed HR professionals in Jamaica and various business leaders in my field.
3. Update your skills. Moving to a new place without a job, most times means starting from the bottom and working your way up. It is important to update your skills and demonstrate an interest in ongoing growth and development.
In a bold move, I applied to The University of the West Indies to pursue a Masters degree part-time. Doing so, allowed me to forge my first friendships in Jamaica. It also provided a first hand view of culture in particular the language.
4. Financial Obligations. It is absolutely necessary to settle or make arrangements for all your current financial obligations and also notify your primary bankers that you are moving. I highly recommend having a Power of Attorney to conduct any business on your behalf.
Find a trust worthy, finance savvy friend or family member to be your Power of Attorney. You will need to go to a lawyer to draft the documents. Send a copy of the agreement to your main bank along with a copy of the individuals ID. If you have financial obligations to honor after you’ve migrated, ensure you are signed up to the online portal. It is also important to find out fees and cost of transferring money from your new home to the old, especially if different currencies are involved. Cancel bank accounts, subscriptions etc you will no longer utilize. Find out from existing firms if your individual life/health coverage can be transferred to the new island.
5. Legal Documentation. Find out from the Labour department in the Island you are moving to, everything you require to work when you move.
Most islands will honour the CARICOM skills certificate. I suggest you start the process as early as possible to acquire same. Also, if your passport is almost expired-renew it before you move. Ensure you have located your Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Immunization records just for precaution.
6. Be intentional about making friends. Friendships enrich our lives. Adults admittedly have a harder time making new friends than children.
An acquaintance who migrated to be with her husband a few years prior, told me this- Be intentional about making friends-or else you will be attached to your husband and become needy. Say yes to after class drinks or the occasional group exercise. Find a local church and volunteer to do things you are interested in. Do not force friendship, but instead be open-minded and have casual conversations. Be yourself at all times.
7. Referral Letters-Do not burn your bridges.
Many jobs request referral letters. It is best practice to request one from your current job. Even if you don’t, have the conversation with your current leader and at least two other professional colleagues to anticipate the request.
8. Packing and Shipping.- Use the move as a Detox, take only what you need.
You will be pleasantly surprised to see all the material things you have collected over the years. Unlike the US where you’re able to drive between states, we must fly between islands. Thus shipping is a lot more expensive- air cargo. Pack what is necessary, items you utilize daily, kitchen staples, professional necessities. The weight adds up quickly.
Migrating can be emotionally draining and tedious. Focus on your long term goals. As much as possible, listen to upbeat music to keep your spirits high. Create a clear vision of the life you want to cultivate when you move. Your best days are ahead of you- the world was meant to be explored