Friday, 25 November 2011

How I Moved to Barbados (and how you can too)

I've been living in Barbados for 1 year and 7.5 months and it's been an amazing journey! Whenever I go back home to Toronto to visit, people ask me how I made the move. I usually give them the brief "student exchange" version because I'm on a streetcar/subway, but it really took so much more than that. So for anyone thinking about a short or long term move, here are some of the things I did:

- Become a citizen. Ya ya, I know that's easier said than done! But for me that was the real beginning. My dad is born in Barbados and I always wanted dual citizenship so I started the process in Toronto with the help of the Barbados consulate. In fact, the whole process was done in Toronto. It involved obtaining my long birth certificate, sending an application with the small fee ($25) to the consulate, and 8 months later- I was a citizen by descent! This kind of citizenship is different from being born in Barbados, but you still get ease of access at the airport/immigration and no time limit stamped in your passport. I am also able to get free health care, work, get a license, and do other things Bajans can do.
- Do an exchange through your University or College. As soon as I started my PhD I knew I wanted to do research in the Caribbean and spend time there. So I did all my required courses in my 1st year and saved my electives for my second year which was spent in Barbados at the University of the West Indies. I was surprised to learn in my exchange interview that the University of Toronto and the University of the West Indies (UWI) has one of the longest exchange relationships. Check out your university's abroad office or Centre for International Experience
Another perk is getting a different kind of educational experience. Not only academically but socially. When I started courses at UWI it was the 1st time I wasn't the only black girl in my class! After undergrad and Masters was a long time coming.
- Do an internship. When I got to Barbados in April 2010 I was already accepted to the exchange program that started in September, but I wanted to enhance my abroad experience. I tapped into an internship program at my university which focused on development and I knew it was a perfect opportunity. An introduction from a school friend led to a meeting with one of the departments at the University of the West Indies. By learning what they needed (research and data analysis) I marketed my skills and on June I began a 6 month internship at UWI.
(Check out for internship funding opportunities!)
- Get a job. After the internship a position for a Summer Programme Coordinator came up in the department. By then they knew me and my work and I was offered the position. It was one of the greatest employment experiences of my life! I met people from across the Caribbean, got more international employment experience, and made some cash. I also showed my colleagues that I am a great asset. I'm currently finishing up 2 projects I started here and have been asked to start another!

So that's it in more than a nutshell. I hope this helps you out!

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