Great idea in theory, not so easy in practice. Those first six months were definitely sink-or-swim, and there were days where I really wished I had had someone who had "gone there before me" to share my woes and worries with, or just to get a little bit of reassurance that everything was normal and eventually things would work themselves out. It would have been helpful to have another woman who knew what I was going through, especially someone specifically from Rome who could give me some tips on the local culture, or how to navigate the Byzantine bureaucracy, and hopefully have a laugh over it.
Well, even though I wasn't fortunate enough to know any expat mentors and kind of learned by trial and error as I think many of my fellow expat women have done and do every day, today is the official launch date of Expat Women, a new website subtitled "Helping Women Living Overseas." Besides lots of information, stories, and resources, this website has a growing network of volunteer mentors: women from all walks of life who are living the overseas experience and are willing to share their knowledge and help via email with new women expats.
For example, women new to Europe can visit the site and go to the mentor page to find a mentor for their area or city. Since the site is new, the list of mentors is still growing. In fact, I'm the only mentor right now for Rome (and Italy in general)! You can become a mentor if you:
- have been living in your current location for more than 6 months;
- are a friendly, giving soul – willing to help and to answer all sorts of questions; and
- can make Expat Women emails a priority, endeavoring to answer all emails within 48 hours.
One great feature is that this site is for all English-speaking women around the world who have moved from their home country to a new country, not necessarily just Americans living overseas. This month's success story, in fact, is about Cornelia Zicu, who fled a refugee camp in Romania and now runs the Cornelia Day Resort in New York, a 22,000 square foot oasis on the top of Ferragamo's Fifth Avenue boutique!
Sending my biggest auguri to Andrea and Jill, founders of Expat Women (with 20 years of combined experience living overseas) on their launch, and if you have a moment, I encourage you to stop by and check out the site. It really is full of resources that I would have loved to have had when I first came to Italy, and like I mentioned above, it is not just for Europe but for expat women living all over the world.