When I was in college, I wanted to work for a think tank in a research role. Today, I’m a matchmaker and expat coach.
How the hell did that happen?
In college, I imagined that I wanted to spend my days doing research. But once I finished graduate school, the last thing I wanted was to do was more research. I actually loved research, (still do!) but I wanted a career that gave me more flexibility, more travel experience, and more human to human interactions.
I had to let go of the idea of what I thought my career would look like in order to find what I really wanted.
I had absolutely no idea what kind of career I wanted.
But rather than obsessing over the “I don’t know” part, I just jumped in and tried a bunch of different things. I saw each opportunity as a paid learning experience. My only requirement was that I had to be able to work from home.
I ended up spending a year freelancing. I did freelance writing, VA work, and research, before landing a gig writing about relationships for a lifestyle blog. The job did not pay well, but I had a feeling it would lead into something else. It did! I ended up getting a job as a matchmaker a month later.
Matchmaking is not a career I ever expected. But it actually fits in perfectly with my academic background, while utilizing my research and writing skills, as well as my experience in self management developed through freelancing. Matchmaking also showed me that I’m really good at recruitment. Back in college, I would have never expected that recruitment would become one of my major skills and passions. Plus, it taught me how to be an entrepreneur, which inspired me to launch my own coaching business.
I have a lot of friends who struggle with jobs they hate, underemployment, or even unemployment. But when I ask them what they would rather be doing, they have no idea.
That’s the problem. Not that they have no idea what they want to be doing, but that they let their indecision keep them frozen in a situation they don’t like. I work with a lot of clients who have the same issue! The problem is that they need to shift their mindset around work.
If you take a job, you don’t have to be there for 30 years. You may be there for a few years at most, but you always have the power to move into a different field, to quit and travel the world, to go back to school, whatever… You are in the driver’s seat and each job you take, is just another learning experience that will bring you closer to where you really want to be.
Here’s the secret.
I wish someone had told me this when I was job hunting… you’re not going to know what you want to do. In fact, it’s better if you don’t! Finding the career that’s right for you will take trying a bunch of different opportunities. The more you experiment, the faster what you should really be doing will land in your lap. That’s why it’s so important to do plenty of internships and volunteer work when you’re still in school.
Exploring all of those different opportunities is not wasted time. In each of those roles, you’ll get a better sense of who you are, what you’re good at, and what you really want. And you’ll be developing skills that will make it possible to actually get your dream job. Every job, not matter how insignificant it seems is really such a gift, if only because it presents the ability to continue your education (and pay your bills)!
Another word of caution.
I see a lot of people turn down great opportunities just because it isn’t exactly what they want. Most people don’t wake up the day after graduation and find their dream job. I had a friend turn down a job that would have allowed her to travel the world for fun and for work just because she didn’t want to work in sales.
Don’t turn down good learning opportunities just because they aren’t exactly what you imagined. Your career path is going to take many twists and turns. I am so far from where I thought I would be and couldn’t be happier about it! Be open to trying new things and trust that every opportunity is taking you closer to where you really want to be.
When I was a senior in college, the idea of getting a job and working full time in an office sounded like literal hell. Even though college had been really hard on me and I was a chronic overachiever, I couldn’t imagine giving up the freedom I had as a student.
I remember telling my academic advisor that I worked best at night and wanted something with flexible hours. He recommended freelance work, but I didn’t know how to get freelance work and didn’t know anyone who had ever pulled it off. Working as a freelance writer sounded like a fantasy.
Earlier in my senior year I had been considering graduate school. I had been working for the past two years in non-profit and I wanted to continue in that space, but I was already burned out. I had studied abroad in the Czech Republic and Poland, so I knew that I wanted to learn more about the region. I had no idea what I would do with that experience or how it would benefit me, but the calling was deep, so I knew I had to follow it.
My professors and advisors were telling me to go to grad school in the US. One even told me if I didn’t go to an Ivy League school it would be a waste of time. But when I crunched the numbers, it just didn’t make sense. I would have to take out student loans and spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on tuition. It would take two to three years to get my degree. That meant not only would I be deep in debt from school, I would also be living in a costly US city like New York or Boston.
When I imagined what my future would look like following the path of an American grad school, honestly, it looked terrible. I would be sacrificing my quality of life in a big way for at least a few years. I would have to spend hundreds of dollars and hours preparing for the GRE.
Plus, by taking out loans, I would be sacrificing my freedom. With debt breathing down my neck, I would feel pressured to study something that was “practical” but that I wasn’t passionate about. I would spend the next few years wondering whether I had made an enormous and costly mistake before taking the best paying job that came my way to pay off my debt, rather than pursuing my passions.
I stepped back and took a serious look at what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to be. Honestly, I couldn’t come up with any answers and with a degree in Religious Studies, my prospects didn’t exactly feel red hot.
At the time, I let the pressures of the situation distract me and I was totally out of alignment with myself and what I wanted. What I did know was, A. I wasn’t ready for a full time job, not mentally and not on paper. B. I was really passionate about travel. And C. I was being called to study the post-Soviet space more deeply.
With all of this swimming around in my mind, a full class load, two jobs, and two thesis projects, I was headed straight for a nervous breakdown. Somehow, while doing research for a paper, I discovered a small university in Budapest, Hungary. I had never been to Budapest, but it had been at the top of my list for some time.
It was an English language graduate school that offered American accredited degrees, but at a European price tag. Plus, it followed the European education model, meaning degrees were 10 months to 2 years long. On top of that, the cost of living in Budapest is significantly less than the average American city. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Budapest is 68% lower than that of New York City. The university also had way more funding available than the average American institution.
And since the Universe works in magical ways, my university in Budapest was one of only two universities in the world that offered a degree in the specific field I had been studying for the past two years. I didn’t realize that this seemingly random passion I had developed for Nationalism Studies could be parlayed into a graduate degree.
I applied as a failsafe. I figured if I didn’t get a job I would just go to grad school. That’s exactly what I did.
I ended up getting 75% of my degree covered by scholarships, which meant I paid less than four thousand dollars for my MA.
Because I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone both academically and literally, I also expedited my personal and professional growth in a way I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish in the US. But more on that later!
You just can’t concentrate at work anymore. You spend most of the day on Instagram scrolling through travel pictures. You’re job doesn’t light you up and you spend most of the day wondering if you’ll ever break out of the soulsucking rat race. Your commute is beginning to feel like torture.
If you’re being honest, there’s probably at least a tiny part of you that wants to just drop everything and move to a new country. Set sail and travel full time. I get that. Life is short and we live on a beautiful planet. It would be a tragedy to go through life and only see a small sliver of all the beauty this world has to offer.
That’s why I moved to Budapest, Hungary when I was 22.
Unfortunately, at the time, expat coaching wasn’t really a thing and I didn’t have anyone to offer me honest advice on how to move abroad.
The reality is, moving to a different country is hard. Even in the best of circumstances, the culture shock, language barrier, and stresses of everyday life can have a SERIOUS impact on your mental health. I know it impacted mine.
That’s why I’m writing this blog series to give you all of the information I wish I had before I showed up completely alone in a country I had never been to before.
Looking back, it was nuts of me to do this without any help. Luckily, you don’t have to.
1. Ego Calls vs. Soul Calls
Some people feel the call to travel, some people don’t. If you are feeling the call, before you uproot your life, you need to figure out where that call is coming from. If you are inspired to travel by the Instagram models you follow, if you imagine this journey is going to be easy and glamorous, and if you fantasize about showing off how cool and exciting your life is, it’s probably your ego that wants to travel. If that is the case, you aren’t going to have the stamina that it takes to move abroad full time. When shit gets hard, your ego is going to get bored real fast.
On the other hand, you might be experiencing a call to travel that comes from deep in your soul. You will feel this call throughout your entire body. Your desire to travel comes from wanting to see more of this gorgeous planet we live on. If your soul is asking you to travel, it is coming from a desire to expand and grow. It is only with this growth mindset that you will be able to overcome the literal and emotional hurdles that come with long term travel.
2. If Your Call is Genuine, It Isn’t Going Away
Soul calls come to us for a reason and ignoring them will not make them go away. You may be too afraid to quit your job and move abroad. That’s normal, but that doesn’t mean your desire is going anywhere. If you have a soul call to travel (or to do anything really) you need to answer it in earnest. The good news is that if it is a genuine soul desire, the Universe will move things around to make it happen, as long as you take the leap and make the effort.
Before I moved abroad, I was sick with nerves. Each day I got closer to the move, I felt sicker and sicker, but I knew my desire to see the world was bigger than my fear of change and airplanes. I took the leap and the Universe opened doors for me, both in my career and in my personal growth.
3. You Need Help
When I moved to Budapest, I did not have the help or support I needed. I actually didn’t even have that when I studied abroad in college. It wasn’t until I had been living in Budapest for almost two years that I learned there was an industry supporting expats with everything from coaching, to accounting, to in person events.
Living abroad is wildly stressful at times. Simple things waiting in line at customs and going to the doctor sometimes make you want to give it all up and move back to safety. But getting yourself the support you need will make this experience so much more viable and save yourself unnecessary suffering.
4. You Need to Study the Language
Note that I didn’t say you need to learn the language! Learning the language is great and will seriously improve your career cred, but it’s not totally necessary. It is necessary to study the language and do your best to use it in everyday life.
For one, it’s just good etiquette when you move to a new country, but it goes deeper than that. Studying the language will help you acclimate more to living in a new place. But it will also open you up for richer experiences.
Locals know learning a new language is hard, and they will so appreciate your efforts, even if they laugh at your mispronunciations. People will be kinder and help you more which makes all of the study well worth it. And nothing can beat that feeling of accomplishment when you are finally able to negotiate with street vendors or order in a cafe in a new language. If you can manage it, start studying the language before you get there. Even if you only know a few words, it will ease your transition.
5. Transplant Shock is Not Just for Plants
Transplant shock is when you move a plant from one spot to another and no matter what you do, it just can’t thrive. This totally applies to humans as well. (Note: I’m kind of stealing this idea from Venessa Rodriguez of the Wildly Rooted Podcast).
When you move to a new place, your system is going to be in shock for awhile. Your circadian rhythm is going to have to adjust. It’s actually normal for women to miss their periods when they move to a new country, I always do. The new foods may be hard on your digestive system. And you may find yourself depressed, homesick, and emotionally fried. This is a normal part of the process, but there are ways to diminish these symptoms. (link to other article)
6. There Are Options
A lot of people have preconceived notions about what their career is going to look like when they move abroad. Some people think their only option is to teach English. Others envision a remote job or working locally. There are pros and cons to all of these work options but try to keep an open-mind. There are more options that you are capable of seeing right now, so remain open to seeing the benefits of these different career paths or even trying multiple options at the same time. Not every job you have is going to be your dream job, but with the right mindset, every job can be a step towards living your dream life.
When working with matchmaking clients, I always take time to go over what they are looking for in a match.
Yes, I need to know what they are looking for in a partner, but I’m also looking for something deeper. What they describe to me helps me get a clearer sense of whether or not they are going to have success working with a matchmaker.
If they focus on character traits, how that person treats them, and how they want to feel with their partner, I consider that a sign that they are really in the place for a relationship.
On the other hand, if they focus on attributes alone, I often get the sense that what they’re looking for is an accessory, not a life partner.
I want you to take a minute to write down what it is you are looking for in a partner. Really give it some thought and make a list. Be honest. Do not read on until you have your list.
Ok, so now that you have your list, feel free to read the examples below. I made them up, but honestly they aren’t too far off from what I hear everyday.
“I’m looking for someone who I feel safe and comfortable around. I want someone who is growth oriented, supportive of my career, and looking for a real relationship. It’s important to me that he is financially stable. I’m Christian, so I would like someone who respects that and has similar values, but his actual faith doesn’t matter too much, but I will be putting up a Christmas tree! I’m passionate about travel, so it would be nice if they could share that with me, but at the end of the day, how I feel when I’m with them is more important.”
Client two says:
“I need someone who makes 150k a year, at least. I live a certain lifestyle and he needs to be able to keep up. I fly first class and it’s embarrassing for me if I’m upfront and my boyfriend is in coach. I’m really spiritual. I do yoga everyday and I’m a vegetarian. I need him to be on my same level from a spiritual and dietary perspective. I do NOT want to date someone who is religious in any way, I wouldn’t be able to respect him for being so brainwashed. He needs to be spiritual. I’m really into the art and culture scene. When there is a gallery opening, my friends expect me to be there. It would be hard for me to date a guy who prefers sports to art because I need him to come to events with me. And trust me, I am not going to a football game. He must be caucasian, college educated (grad school preferred), and work out every week. I travel a lot. It’s a passion of mine. If he hasn’t been on at least one international trip this year, that’s a dealbreaker. And the Bahamas don’t count.”
So take a moment to mull these two lists over. Which of these two people do you think is setting themselves up for success? Which is more likely to be in a relationship three months from now?
Now read over your list again. Compare them. Which client do you sound more like?
Client one focused on character traits she is looking for. Yes, she does have preferences, like Christianity and a passion for travel, but ultimately her focus is on how this person makes her feel. Does this person support her? Does he want the same things? While it would be great to meet all of her preferences, her ultimate goal is finding someone who is right for her IRL, not someone who is right for her on paper.
Client two is looking for attributes. She doesn’t mention how this person makes her feel, if he’s looking for the same things, what he brings to the relationship emotionally. She’s interested in external aspects and status. She also indicates that she is not willing to compromise in the relationship by sharing some of her partner’s interests. She is looking to 3-D print a perfect boyfriend, which indicates to me that she lacks the emotional maturity for a functional adult relationship.
Client one wants a partner. Client two wants an accessory. In Client one’s relationship, there is room for growth. Client two needs to control and control sucks all of the space out of a relationship (not to mention the sex). Where do you fall on this spectrum?
In today’s dating paradigm, it’s really easy to fixate on attributes, not character. In a dating app profile, all you see are attributes. You get obsessed with finding someone who looks exactly like what you think you want. You find yourself ruling out potentially great partners because they don’t fit your fantasy, but without learning their whole story.
Fantasizing is a solitary activity. If you want a fantasy partner, you can have one. They’ll live in your brain. You’ll spend Friday nights alone masturbating and wondering why your magical, perfect person hasn’t appeared. And by the way, your fantasy comes mostly from your thinking mind, ruling out what you really need deep down in your soul, but that’s another story.
Yes, I get it. Attraction is important. Sex is important. But attraction is dynamic and evolving. You can’t possibly decide if you are attracted to someone based on a picture, whether it’s on a dating app or in your head.
If you want a partner, then forget the fantasy. There are no perfect humans. You need to do two things. One, assess whether you are capable of being a good partner. And two, look over your list and make sure you are looking for a partner of character, not an accessory.
Yep, you read that right. Transplant shock isn’t just for plants!
If you aren’t a gardener, transplant shock is when you uproot a plant and move it somewhere else, where it fails to thrive. In some cases, the plant will even die.
Like plants, we humans are rooted into our environments. Our roots may be less literal, like our social networks, family, and habits, but it doesn’t mean we are any less deeply rooted. Just like plants, our bodies have also acclimated to the environment around you and the food you are eating. A move can have physical and emotional impacts on your wellness.
When you uproot yourself and move to a new country, the shock can be just as traumatic as it is for plants. For me, it was almost tortuous to go from the Sunshine state to Eastern European winters. Wow, talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder!
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move. That’s not what I’m saying at all.
What I am saying is the a move takes foresight and strategy. If you want to thrive in your new home, you need to make the effort to do so.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to help people like me avoid the mistakes that I made when I moved abroad. So if you want to really commit to your wellness and making your move successful on all levels, I seriously recommend follow these tips.
1. No Trips Abroad for 3 Months
So I know you moved abroad because you want to see the world, but when you first move to a new country, you need to focus on settling down first to avoid transplant shock. In other words, you need to let your roots ground in so you can thrive in your new home long term. Taking trips to other countries right away will not only be disorienting, but will also get in the way of forming an intimate relationship with your new city. Depending on your visa situation, you may not even be able to leave the country for the first few months anyway. Focus on really getting to know your new city and don’t leave until it has started to really feel like home.
2. Time in Nature
One of the most important things you can do to diminish transplant shock is to get out in nature. I believe every country and every city has its own energy. When you’re moving out of one energy and into another, it may be a shock to your system. Going exploring in nature will not just help you fall in love with your new home, but I believe the subtle energy of plants has profoundly healing effects. Get out into nature anytime you’re feeling homesick or disconnected and you will acclimate much more quickly.
3. Move in Summer
If you’re moving more than a few time zones away, your circadian rhythm is going to be totally fucked. This impacts people to different degrees, but for me, it’s an absolute nightmare and it can take weeks before I feel like a normal human again.
One of the best ways (maybe the only way!) to align your circadian rhythm and get your sleep schedule back on track is sunlight. If you are moving to a place that experiences winter, you should really move in the summer. Otherwise, you will not have access to the kind of sunlight that will align your sleep cycles. This can cause insomnia, fatigue, depression, and MAJOR transplant shock.
When I was in graduate school, I spent 6 weeks in the US for winter break and traveled around the US while I was there. This was such a big mistake. It disrupted my process of settling into life abroad and totally fucked up my circadian rhythm. When I got back to Hungary it was the dead of winter and there was almost no sunlight. I got sick, depressed, homesick, and exhausted. And I don’t mean a little sad or a little sluggish. I mean full blown depression and an inability to get out of bed and go to class.
I totally understand the desire to want to go home and see your family over the holidays, but it can set back your process of acclimation back in a lot of ways. It may be worth it to skip your first year or to have them visit you instead.
4. Study the Language
Not only is this a practical tool that will make your life easier, but I believe that each language has its own vibration. Practicing the language will help you acclimate more to the energy of the country and help you form that intimacy you want with your new home.
5. Limit Contact with Friends Back Home
I know this makes me sound like a hardass, but it is totally necessary. I don’t mean you should ghost all of your friends, but you should be mindful in your contact when you first move.
When you have those difficult moments, you’re going to want to reach out to something familiar. But the more you rely on your network back home, the more you are going to want to go back.
Right now, you are trying to make a new home for yourself, so it is vitally important that you push yourself to develop a local support network as soon as you can. This is where having an expat coach can really help you. It is someone familiar you can turn to when you need support, but not someone you had a pre-existing relationship with that is going to distract you or tempt you to give up.
6. Connect with People Before You Move
Friendship might be the biggest tool towards helping you feel more rooted in your new home. Connecting with people and organizations before you get there will help you a lot. Join local expat organizations for events and support in finding an apartment. Join local Facebook pages and post in the groups introducing yourself. Having someone you can reach out to to ask questions before you get there and knowing you will have chances to socialize as soon as you move will be such a balm for your anxiety.
One group I’m a part of Women of Budapest, is a support network for Hungarian and expat women living in Budapest (obviously). They host social events, travel together, post jobs, and answer even your most embarrassing questions (where can I find an English speaking doctor that does paps?). Having a support network like this before arriving will change your experience.
7. Get Your Own Space ASAP
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is taking too long to find an apartment. You should have all of your basic research on apartment hunting covered before you even move. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend signing a lease before you get there, but you should already have showings booked. The longer it takes to get into your own space, unpack, and start to build your nest, the more stressed you’re going to be and the less it will feel like home.
As a matchmaker, I have a lot of clients who come to me post-breakup. These clients are always difficult, because no matter what they do or how great the match I set them up with is, they just can’t get over their ex. Sometimes these breakups happened years ago and they still can’t manage to move on!
By helping these clients through their breakups, I have identified the top three reasons people just can’t seem to get over their exes, not matter how hard they try.
If you’re in the same boat, read on.
1. You’re Dating too Soon
I have an aquaintence I see from time to time. Every time we run into each other, she has a new boyfriend. They inevitably breakup within a few weeks or months, leaving her near crazy asking herself (and everyone else) “Why, does this keep happening?!?”
When you jump from guy to guy or relationship to relationship, I’m going to be honest, you start to look pathetic. People wonder why you’re so uncomfortable being alone. And that’s kind of a red flag for potential suitors.
Dating apps have normalized rapid fire dating in a way that makes the average person’s love life look like a game of musical chairs. This is not a healthy dynamic.
I firmly believe you should be single for at least six months post breakup before you start dating again.
I’ve witnessed a lot of friends change completely during a relationship. After the breakup, they have no idea who they are or what they are looking for. Rather than taking the time to get to know themselves, they jump into a relationship with the first guy who shows interest and absorb his personality and desires instead. You cannot be in a functional relationship unless you have a clear sense of your own identity and desires.
Breakups are emotionally difficult, and afterwards you need time alone to process your feelings. If you jump into another fling or relationship, you are really just burying down the pain of your breakup. But guess what? That pain doesn’t go anywhere. And with the next breakup, it will just continue to snowball, until it takes you down in an avalanche of repressed emotions.
You can see how not taking time off between relationships is not only setting yourself up for failure, it’s also setting yourself up for a mental breakdown!
2. You’ve Lost Your Passion
When you find yourself constantly missing your ex, you have to ask yourself, is it really the person you miss, or is it something else?
One of my clients could not for the life of him get over his ex. Everytime he started to move in a good direction, he would totally breakdown. He confessed that he missed his ex like crazy and since they had broken up he had felt dead inside. Alarm bells went off in my head.
Unsurprisingly, around the same time of the breakup he had moved into working in a different industry, an industry he was much less passionate about.
I suggested that maybe it wasn’t his ex he missed so much, maybe he was just lacking passion in his life. Maybe he missed the emotional, intellectual, and sexual passion of that relationship, but not actually the abusive person behind it.
It was like a lightbulb went off for him. I suggested that he focus on consciously replacing his relationship with new passions. He did! And I had the pleasure of watching him come back to live and move on.
Relationships take up a lot of space in our lives and the loss of one leaves a massive vacuum inside of us. It’s the reason why you so often say, “I just feel so empty,” after a breakup. In order to overcome the emptiness that can so often hold you back, you need to mindfully fill this space in your life. It’s all too easy to open up dating apps and to try to fill this space up with a new person. That won’t work!
You need to rediscover old passions and start new ones. Fill this space up with passion and not only with your breakup be easier, you will be a much more appealing candidate when you start dating again… nothing is sexier than passion!
3. You Haven’t Done the Work
I always ask my clients what work they’re doing to get ready for a relationship. I get a lot of blank stares in response. Sometimes people say, “Umm… Nothing. Am I supposed to be doing something?”
Not doing any personal exploration and development work between relationships, is the reason you are drifting mindlessly from relationship to relationship. It’s the reason you keep getting your heartbroken over and over.
It’s also the reason why you aren’t over your ex.
My matchmaking clients who come to me right after a breakup and are unwilling to work on themselves, have a 0% success rate. And they almost always confide in me that no matter how many dates they go on, they can’t get over their ex. This is especially true for clients who were in toxic relationships.
But the thing is, it’s not so much their ex that they can’t get over… it’s the wound underneath.
If you were in a toxic relationship, something led you to pick that partner. That thing was probably a wound. Probably a wound from childhood or early adolescence.
You can’t get over your ex, because they represent the wound. And wound wants to be healed. If you want to get over your ex, you have to direct your attention away from them and towards yourself. You have to examine your relationship patterns in order to find the wound underneath all of your failed relationships.
When you heal that wound, you will heal your feelings for your ex, and set the groundwork towards having a functional relationship in the future.