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5 ways to start a life abroad.

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

In the 15 years I have lived as an African immigrant in Europe, I have crossed paths with many fellow Africans and we have shared our migrant journeys.

One universal notion across the board in all these stories is the fact that no one ever becomes an immigrant unless they have a deep conviction that there is a lack of opportunities and prospects in their fatherland.

That being said, the decision to migrate should be well thought out in order to make sure that one experiences the least resistance or trauma while in search of greener pastures.

I have compiled a list of the 5 most common ways to migrate while also examining the pros and cons.

In the order of easiest to most difficult here is my list of 5 ways to migrate.

1. By Family reunification

This is undoubtably the easiest way to migrate and start a new life in a foreign country and its probably a no brainer. If you are fortunate enough to have close family ties with someone already living abroad, this will definitely serve to cushion your transition and give you a head start on the migrant journey.


  • Basic needs are guaranteed, these include shelter, food and clothing simply because you will be living with someone who is already established in your migratory destination.

  • Safety needs are also pretty much covered because the relationship with a national means that you are most likely to be granted long term residency and stay thereby opening the door to employment and financial stability, health insurance and personal security.

  • Migrating to reunite with family will also mean that you have a head start in fulfilling the need for love and belonging. Having family around helps to satisfy emotional needs and reduce the impact of social isolation, culture shock and depression.


  • There is a deep feeling of indebtedness that comes from being brought by a relative, this on its own can push people into depression because they feel they owe their relative for doing them such a great favour.

  • Also, one is completely dependent financially from the time of their arrival to the moment when they find their own feet and this can be very strenuous for the relationship and bond between the newly migrated family member.

Tip. It’s important to have clear and open lines of communication to avoid an uncomfortable situation both for the host and for the newcomer migrant. Sometimes it helps to get help from a counsellor to help restore the bond and mend relations.

2. As a highly skilled professional

Most countries have a list of Professions that are in high demand. These positions are hard to fill with available human resources within the country and companies are therefore allowed to look outside the country for personnel to fill these positions.


  • Companies that employ highly skilled migrant professionals will usually take care of the whole process including tickets accommodation and permits. This means that basic needs and safety needs are immediately fulfilled and you probably wont have to lift a finger to sort this out.

  • Also an already existing job means that financial stability and independence is guaranteed.

  • While negotiating the terms of employment it might also be possible to bring family and dependants and also have their residence sorted.


  • Your Residence is bound to an employer , at least for a set period of time because of the companies resources invested in you.

  • Depending on the type of permit that you will be issued and that countries individual laws, your partner might not be allowed to work or at least not for a certain period of time.

Tips- Negotiate your contract from a position of confidence and power. Realise that the fact that you are being considered for the job means they need your skills. Use that to your advantage. Personal branding and Assertiveness training are two unmissable skills in this negotiation process.

3. A fully funded scholarship

There are different types of scholarships but that’s a discussion for another day, a fully funded scholarship means that your wellbeing and upkeep is sponsored for the duration of your studies. This type of scholarship can also be offered at bachelor level but is usually more accessible to master and PhD students.


  • Students are offered a fixed amount of money to be used in covering expenses and upkeep so they can focus on their studies.

  • Visas and permits are Hu organised by the scholarship which makes securing your stay hastle free.


  • Scholarship races are usually based on the minimum wage of workers in that country and after bills and expenses there isn’t much left over for leisure, in other words, you get just enough to keep you alive and no more.

  • Most scholarships are also 100% tax deductible for the organisers which sometimes means , you as a beneficiary are not allowed to work.

  • You migrate alone and have to build a social network for mental and emotional support from scratch which makes you prone to predators and manipulators.

Tips- learning to stand up for yourself (Assertiveness) as well as knowing how to focus on your goals despite the challenges are great skills to have if you choose to migrate this way.

4. As an Au-pair

An Au-Pair is usually someone between 18 and 30 years who migrates to work and study parttime. Au pairs are usually employed in households and charged with housekeeping and childcare while also required to study and explore the culture of their host country.


  • This is a great way to be introduced into a culture at a young age. You get a mall allowance in exchange for your services while furthering your education.

  • You are welcomed into a family setup and are essentially part of the family which, if the contact is good, means you have an already existing support network to fulfill your emotional and social needs.


  • Most families prefer very young women to work as au pairs specifically because they are vulnerable and easy to manipulate.

  • The quality of your stay is very much dependent on the quality of your host family so you are dependent on them in many ways.

Tip- learning to set boundaries and stand up for yourself are very important if you decide to use this route to migrate. Assertiveness and goal setting cannot be underestimated.

5. As a Refugee/asylum seeker

A refugee is someone who flees their home country and seeks protection in another country because their lives are in danger. This is in my opinion the most difficult and traumatic way to migrate.


  • At the end of the day you are guaranteed at least a chance to live freely and without fear of persecution or death.


  • The process to getting your refugee status approved is in most countries still a very traumatic one. Your host country will not just take your word for it that your life is in danger. Usually this will be long and excruciating legal process in which you will have to provide evidence to the fact of your persecution as well as be subjected to rigorous questioning.

  • You might be forced to live in a refugee camp where your freedom is limited to a bare minimum of finances and access to resources.

  • This is a last resort and in my opinion what you are fleeing has to be more traumatic than the experience that you will be subject to.

Tip- Because of the traumatic nature of this form of migration, there might be need to seek out counselling as well as learning the skill of Emotion Regulation to deal with the overwhelming emotional experiences of this migrant journey.

No one who has ever had it easy , decides to leave home and become a migrant but with the right knowledge , resources and skills, one can live out a fulfilling life as an immigrant

Migrate to Thrive, not just to survive -Mary Razemba

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