Smartphone Tips for Expats

Traveling with a smart phone is glorious. However, bringing a locked smart phone from Canada was a terrible decision. I thought I could easily get it unlocked but what happened was the opposite. I had no idea the amount of red tape and rules I would uncover. Nonetheless, my smart phone had become a luxury I didn’t want give up.

Smart phones bought in North America are cheaper because they have a carrier-lock, a pesky nuisance that keeps your phone on the providers network. While abroad, your phone will be roaming, increasing your phone bill to atrocious amounts. To prevent this, many will “jailbreak” their iPhone in order to have the ability to completely customize their phone, find free apps, and install a carrier unlock so their phone will work with other SIM cards. A word of warning, unlocking a phone under contract will make your warranty invalid.

A jailbreak is not so difficult, but updates of your phone can prevent it from working and then it will need to be installed again. The iPhone can be unlocked with relative ease, as long as its modem firmware (or baseband) is compatible. A list can be found with a quick Google search. iPhones with a modem firmware of either 4.12.01 or 4.11.08 are locked with no solution.

If you have a modem firmware that can’t be unlocked yourself, you can call your service provider to ask about unlocking the phone. This is to gain access to the IMEI code. For me, the outcome wasn’t good; I was told I could buy out the rest of my contract for a price of $400 with the option to keep my phone number for an additional $30 a month. I didn’t go with this option because it is ridiculous compared to other mobile providers around the world.

My advice is to do your self a favor and invest in an unlocked smart phone. It’s more expensive but the mobility it provides is invaluable to the avid traveler. Mobile phones in most European countries are all sold unlocked and priced between €250 to €800. Afterwards, it is easy to find a cheap mobile provider to get a SIM card for a number and an affordable data plan. For example, in Belgium, the average 2 GB data + voice + sms package has an average price of €15/month.

There are a few smart phones that are known to be “travel-friendly” such as Blackberry and Nokia, which are typically used for business. If you prefer the higher-end web browsing and camera capabilities of an iPhone, but with more flexibility and a better price, consider buying an Android. Two great choices are Samsung and HTC; both are high-powered devices that are customizable with limitless free apps and more affordable than the iPhone.

Mobile freedom can be yours with some research and investment; believe me, the juice is worth the squeeze!


Can’t find a job? Time to go abroad…

It’s official, I have been back in my Canadian habitat for three months and I’m still unemployed. When I returned to Canada, I was aware that the job hunt was going to be difficult. I had heard horror stories of those übersmart business majors being unemployed for 9 months before landing that dream job at Pricewaterhousecooper. I tried to quell my fear and anxiety about my looming unemployment by telling myself, “That won’t happen to me. I have 5 years of part-time work experience, a Bachelor of Arts, and an international internship. It will take 3 months tops.” Wrong. Oh so very wrong…

I’m sure there are a bevy of possible reasons I could list as to why my job hunt is not going to plan. And yet, I have read countless articles on the struggles of recent graduates finding work. Supposedly, job creation is on the rise according to Huff Post Canada, who featured “8 best jobs for recent graduates“. According to them, the outlook is good for certain majors as “The earnings of math, science and computer science students on their first jobs have grown five times the rate of humanities students’ salaries.” Ironically, my chosen degree was humanities.

During my job hunt, several questions have weighed heavily on my mind:

Q: Has my job hunt been thorough, exploring all possible options?
A: Not really, there must be more… but where to look?

Q: Are there Communications jobs in Canada that don’t require 3-5 years experience?
A: Doesn’t look like it.

Q: Where should I start obtaining said experience?
A: Not sure; online tutorials for graphic design, research marketing for social media, and freelance writing?…

Q: Should I go back to school to learn some technical skills?
A: Sure, if I can get someone else to pay for it which is highly unlikely.

Q: Am I confused as to where all the entry-level jobs for recent Arts graduates are in Alberta?
A: Yes.

Q: When did Canada become so bloody expensive to live?
A: Years ago, I just hadn’t realized it until traveling and attempting to fend for myself. I recently found this article in the Globe & Mail that made me fairly depressed “2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today

Q: Is Canada the ideal place to start my career?
A: Probably not.

So I began to set my sights across the Atlantic for possible positions in Belgium. With great excitement, I can say I’ve accepted an internship offer for a Communications position in Brussels!

After doing some quick mental calculations, surprisingly, Belgium will be cheaper for me to live in terms of rent and food- cheaper groceries & cheap beer, what more does a girl need? A year in Belgium will be a perfect chance to gain a second language, as well as a great opportunity build upon my existing international work experience. And I won’t have to maintain my relationship over Skype, battling 8 time zones and busy schedules.

Am I going to miss Canada? Most definitely.

Will I be back? For sure, when I can speak French 😉

Am I eager to get back in traveling mode? Yes!

Am I looking forward to living in Belgium? Absolutely.

So in spite of feeling down on my luck these past 3 months, I have come to the realization that my situation is really the opposite. The world is full of opportunities for the taking. Brussels, the capital of Europe, will be a great place to evolve from the role of student to professional. I am hopeful the upcoming year will be full of exciting challenges and growth.

Disillusioned with Development?

This past weekend, I finished reading “Fatboy and the Dancing Ladies” and ended up grappling with the dynamics within development as a career and as a discipline (you can read the review of the book in my “Cozy Nook of Books” page). I ended up having a few great conversations with Jessica, who is an experienced expat of sub-Saharan Africa, about development and what personality traits it takes to be personally and professionally satisfied pursuing a career in aid/development. She forwarded this article to me and this is largely what our conversation entailed. I can’t say that I identify with the ‘profile’ of the aid expat, but I have experienced some similar attitudes towards adventure and ‘expanding my horizons’. I don’t think that this is a bad thing either, but my thoughts about development are in the process of being seriously rethought. Hopefully things will be a bit more clear after my time in Kenya, in the meantime I will enjoy exploring the intricacies of aid in East Africa.

This is the article that addresses what I discovered for myself this weekend. Sorry you have to copy and paste it. I can’t get my links to work 😦 Not blog literate yet…