"I didn't realise how hard it would be to cope with the little things"
Young Irish emigrants open up about coping with emigrating
The loneliness and homesickness experienced by young Irish people who have left here to find work abroad has been laid bare in a new website to help support others who are planning to leave. The website will be launched by Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan on Thursday at 2.30pm in Buswell's Hotel, Dublin 2.
Minister Deenihan: "It is a pleasure to participate in the launch of Crosscare's new website – Mindhowyougo.ie – which has been part-funded under the Emigrant Support Programme. This website seeks to assist future emigrants by providing simple but effective advice and tools to deal with the inevitable challenges. This ranges from pre-departure preparations to early days abroad when the initial experience may not match expectations. For those that are experiencing particular difficulties very practical advice is provided on coping mechanisms. I believe that both current and future emigrants will find it an extremely useful portal to provide the tools necessary to navigate the often challenging experience of emigration."
The site was developed following extensive consultation with 500 recent emigrants to establish how they were coping emotionally with their new lives. With guarantees of anonymity, the honest responses paint a picture of sadness and longing for home that Skype and social media have not been able to overcome.
www.mindhowyougo.ie was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs Emigrant support Programme and developed by Crosscare Migrant Project, one of the programmes of Crosscare (the social support agency of the Archdiocese of Dublin).
The young men and women who took part were asked for a range of feedback on how prepared they were before they left, how their expectations changed when they arrived, and how they coped with the emotional upheaval of leaving. The majority, 71%, said they experienced homesickness regularly and 64% stated that the experience was harder than they expected
For over half (52%) the participants available emotional support abroad was worse compared to when they were in Ireland. Missing family, friends and home was the most commonly cited challenge along with employment related issues and difficulty making friends.
The website charts seven different stages of emigration and gives anyone planning to leave honest, realistic accounts of what to consider before making up your mind, before you go and when you arrive. Among the very personal experiences outlined by those who have gone before were:
"Spend time with family and friends; tell those who you love that you love them. Take time to say goodbye to everyone you care about, try your best to leave on a good note with everyone."
On a more practical note, one person advised;
"Set up Viber and skype accounts before you go, especially for your parents. Write their usernames and passwords down so they don't forget them"
And where possible
"Plan trips home so you have something to look forward to"
Many emigrants advised others to avoid leaving by themselves and to try and go with a group or at least one other person to have some support and back up for the challenges that lay ahead. Others said to manage expectations, finding the right job or a new dream home didn't happen for everyone.
On a positive note, many recorded their happiness at meeting many new people, and welcomed the bond shared by emigrants abroad. From a career perspective many others spoke of how they were in challenging and rewarding jobs that they could not have found at home. Being away from Ireland's "binge drinking culture" was noted by one respondent while another observed the benefits of realising "Ireland isn't at the centre of the Universe!"
Among the biggest challenges outlined by emigrants, were long hours and low pay, being over qualified for work available and missing special family occasions at home like birthdays and weddings.
Irish Abroad Networking Officer with Crosscare Migrant Project Joe O'Brien said "the value that this website brings is the accumulated wisdom of 500 recent Irish emigrants. There is really good and practical advice about what to do before you go and after you arrive that every intending emigrant should look at. For those already abroad we would recommend looking at the section on homesickness. Homesickness could be dismissed as 'just a natural reaction' but we do urge emigrants to give special attention to their emotional and mental health while abroad and take on board some of the advice of their peers."
www.mindhowyougo.ie goes live on 5th march
Notes to editor
Crosscare Migrant Project is a project of Crosscare, the social support agency of the Dublin Archdiocese. The Migrant Project works with people emigrating and with Irish emigrants returning home. See www.migrantproject.ie for more information
www.mindhowyougo.ie was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Emigrant Support Programme
Contact: Joe O'Brien, Irish Abroad Networking Officer
Tel: 087 960 8540