If you are reading this, you are probably like me and knew immediately upon discovering the field of naturopathic medicine that it was the right career choice. If you’re not located near one of the accredited ND programs, you may also relate to how intimidated I was to make the decision to pick up my life and move for school.
When I discovered naturopathic medicine, I was living in Italy. After having made multiple cross-continental moves in the years prior, I knew that embarking on this journey and moving back to North America, although extremely rewarding, would not be easy.
Now that I have settled down in Toronto and started my first year of naturopathic medical school at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), I’ll share some tips for anyone else facing the exciting yet challenging prospect of moving for medical school. Whether you’re moving from one country to another or to a different state/province, I hope my experience will provide you with guidance and confidence that it can be done!
Tip 1: Research, Research, Research!
After being admitted to CCNM in Toronto, I faced two hurdles: 1) my spouse and I had never been to Toronto and had no idea what to expect (besides the cold!), and 2) we had to go through the immigration process.
Research was my biggest help in these scenarios. Here are just a few things that I gathered information about to be as prepared as possible:
- Cost of Living: How much is the average rent? How much household income can be expected based on prior job experience and the time limitations of attending school?
- Where to Live: What are the pros and cons of renting in certain neighborhoods? Look at both on and off-campus housing options. If you don’t have a car, take a look at the public transit options to determine what area(s) are accessible to campus. How much is a monthly or yearly transit pass? Remember that you will be attending classes and studying for at least 8 hours a day; adding a long commute on top of that can be tiring and an inefficient use of your time! Weigh the cost vs. time options.
- Cultural differences: This is an often overlooked part of moving! How will your identity be perceived in a new context? Are there communities that you can join to feel more at home? Although there may not be concrete answers to some of these questions before you move, mental preparation can help ease some anxiety about leaving your comfort zone.
- Immigration: If you aren’t a citizen or permanent resident of the country you’re attending school in, what documents do you need to apply for a student visa? What is the timeline? Each school will have a contact that can help you out with understanding and obtaining some of these requirements, however it’s important to note that you are applying independently.If you know you will need a student visa, apply as early as possible to your program(s) of choice so you can start this process sooner rather than later. I applied to CCNM in January, got accepted and started my study permit in February, and didn’t get my Canadian visa documents until July! Please note that immigration attorney fees will need to be paid by the student if that applies to your situation.
It’s important to note that people will most often share their best and worst experiences online. When researching Toronto, I came across some stories that initially scared me regarding safety as a woman, but living here has proven to be an overwhelmingly positive experience. That’s not to say that bad things don’t happen everywhere and they shouldn’t be considered, but I suggest taking personal experiences with a grain of salt.
Tip 2: Make a Financial Plan
Moving almost always makes a dent in your wallet. Whether you’re driving across state lines or have to ship all of your belongings, you will have to invest in this process. The minute you decide to take the leap to study naturopathic medicine and relocate to do so, re-budget your life to save as much money as you can as quickly as you can. For me, this meant getting another job on top of my full-time job and being extremely frugal, which limited certain experiences like traveling or eating out.
Remember that this adjustment is temporary and that you are investing money in yourself! After graduating from naturopathic medical school, your salary potential can increase drastically, as well as your financial freedom. Check out the 2020 Graduate Success and Compensation Study to learn more about the income of licensed naturopathic doctors. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians also conducted a 2022 Benchmark Survey that shows an increase in salary from 2020. Please contact them directly for more information.
There are lots of free apps to help you understand how you currently spend your money. Many banks and credit cards also have this feature. Evaluating your current lifestyle is a helpful first step if you are feeling overwhelmed with where to start.
Tip 3: Less is More
Every time I have moved, I have underestimated how many belongings I have and how much space they take up. You will likely have to leave some things behind in order to make the move more cost-effective. That can mean putting these items in storage, donating them, or selling them.
If money is tight, use this as an opportunity to scale down and sell what you can! My spouse and I were able to sell some kitchen appliances, household decorations, and furniture. Just by doing this, we were able to put money aside for the costs of shipping.
Remember that the more volume/weight your belongings take up, the more expensive it generally is to relocate. Whether you are shipping boxes, paying for a moving truck, or making multiple driving trips based on what fits in your car, this is something to consider.
Start this process early. Notice what you use and don’t use on a daily basis. Separate the things you don’t use into containers to sell, donate, or store. Once a week (or more), reevaluate what can be moved from the storage section to the donation or sale section, as storage fees can also add up. You may also find it therapeutic to scale down–we certainly did!
Tip 4: Enjoy the Process!
This is easier said than done, but it makes a difference! When stressed about organizing, put on some of your favorite music and sing along. Invite your friends or family to help you pack in exchange for a home-cooked meal. Enjoy the drive or flight with your favorite podcast and take in the stunning views. Remember, by taking this leap, you are one step closer to your dream of becoming a naturopathic doctor!