Interview: Visa Issues and studying in San Francisco

Kathrin from Germany arrived here more than a year ago. She had to deal with quite some visa issues. Check out here story.

1.  Can you give an introduction about yourself?

My name is Kathrin Jansen and I am from Germany. We moved to San Francisco in October 2008 for my husbands’ work!

2.  What are you currently doing?

Due to visa issues (I have a H4) it was almost impossible for me to find a paid job. But I did lots of volunteer work and that helped me to find a new perspective. I noticed that many people in my field (education, international development) have a MBA or people are looking for applicants with a MBA. I found a great program with a focus on sustainable management at Presidio Graduate School and just finished my first semester.

3.  When you think back to your decision making and moving, what was the most difficult aspect in deciding to move here?

Giving up my well paid job for an uncertain future was not easy. But in the end I gained very valuable experience and learned so many things I would have never learned in my old ‘life”.

Leaving friends and family was (is) hard. And though I feel (still) pretty close to many people it is hard work to skype or arrange visits!

4.  What did you do to prepare yourself? 

We didn’t have much time to prepare. We decided in May to move in October. Six weeks before our flight to the US we got married. We tried to prepare the financial side (a big wedding was not helping) and gathering as much information as we could: how much is the rent, where can we find an apartment, costs of living, where can we get a car…? The craigslist website was helpful to get a sense for prices. Otherwise I think there is not that much to prepare. Try to come with as much savings as you can. We had difficulties to get our money from a German bank account to our new American account. Good old traveller checks can be helpful for the first days (rent, deposit, car…)

5.  What was the most useful source of information?

Craigslist and people who live here!

6.  How did you experience your first couple of days in California?

The first week was very stressful. We found a great apartment but we had trouble to pay for the rent and deposit, since our money was stuck on the German account. The next problem was to find furnitures for the apartment. But we found IKEA and some great flea markets. After the apartment we wanted to buy a car. That is a very special issue in the US and we learned some lessons about how to negotiate! In the end we found a really nice car dealer where we felt pretty safe and experienced fair negotiations!

7.  What do you enjoy most about your new life and what do you enjoy least?

I enjoy San Francisco with its nice neighborhoods, very, very friendly people, the diversity, and the professional opportunities (the Bay Area is very innovative in so many fields), the food, the great weekend trips you can take, that German friends love to visit us….

San Francisco is pretty expensive and the apartments do not have the same standards than most of the german buildings (for example the heating). Public transit is okay for an American city but not as good as in Europe! And I miss to have 25-30 days of vacation a year!!

8.  What was your biggest challenge to overcome in your new life/place?

For me the biggest challenge was the visa issue and the fact that I am not allowed to work. I though it would be easier to find a job and apply for my own visa.

9.  Can you tell us your funniest experience you had in the US and if you have, the saddest situation?

One of the saddest situation was when even a German organization was not willing to help me with a visa, though I was clearly overqualified for the job.

10.  What would you tell a friends who is about to move to California?

Try to save as much money as you can and take your time to build a (professional) network!

11.  Did you travel CA? If yes, do you have a secret tip/destination for us?

I love the Marin Headlands! It’s only 30 minutes from San Francisco and you have beautiful views, beaches and lots of hiking trails!

12.  What do you miss most from home?

Good chocolate!

13.  Do you have a special  Notes/Quote you would like to share?

I like to share our blog: http://www.kathrinundthomas.de/ . We write about our experiences in SF for friends and family in Germany!

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