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Hacking it in the big city

By Harsha Gordhan

So after years of studying, you’re either going off to varsity far away from home or have landed a good job. The only catch is that it’s not in your hometown. “Look before you leap,” says Cape Town-based career facilitator and industrial psychologist Ann Werner. Moving cities can be very stressful, so make sure everything is in the bag (contract signed, housing confirmed, etc).

 

Here are some tips on making the adjustment easier:

 

Plan plan plan!

Keep a diary of things to do before you move. Return stuff you’ve borrowed from people and collect the items people have borrowed from you over the years. Yes, that includes the Britney Spears CD from the girl who lives down the road too!

Pack early
Sort your stuff into three piles – one to keep, one to throw away and one to give away. Think about what you are going to take with you to your new place and what you can leave behind in your old room at home.

Start networking
Get numbers of friends’ friends who may be in the same city as you and can help you around in your first weeks there. Get to know the areas around your work and find the best travel route so you are on time on your first day – sometimes the shortest route is not necessarily the quickest route. Become familiar with shops nearby, as well as doctors, dentists, etc. Invest in a mapbook or GPS system – it will go a long way.

Wezi Komeni recently made the move from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Her advice is: “If you are using public transport, make sure you have more than one option. Unexpected things come up (such as strikes). So if taxis aren’t working, make sure you know how to use a bus or train. Always have a plan B.”

Budget
The change from student life to working life is great. Now you will be able to afford as many CDs/books/drinks as your heart desires. But be careful not to get swept away by that salary. Work out beforehand how much tax you will be paying and what monthly debit orders will be coming off your account before you start splurging on unnecessary items. Do you really need another pair of jeans/shoes/earrings?

Settle in
Unpack and set up your place so it feels homely. The first few weeks of work may take some getting used to, so you want to come home to something a little welcoming. “Pictures of family and friends really help – especially when you arrive to an empty flat. The pictures somehow make you feel connected to your loved ones,” says Komeni.

Find a hobby
Start a class at the gym or a book club to meet new people with similar interests. A hobby is relaxing and will also keep your mind busy for the time you are not at work. Getting to know your neighbours is also useful in case of emergencies.

Be confident
Do not underestimate your capability to move cities and thrive in a fast-paced environment. It may be just what you need to push yourself to the next level.

Keep in touch
Stay connected to friends on e-mail, facebook and telephone. Use the support system you have in place to get you through this new venture in your life. Werner says, “Have a return home time/ticket planned and keep in touch with others so when things are rough (as they can and often will be at the start), there is something to look forward to.”

Last but not least … have fun!
Go out and meet new people. It’s an exciting time in your life and you will only be young once. Werner says she’s dealt with people who say it takes longer to settle when one foot is still firmly in their old world. So break free!