Updated: Jun 11, 2019
I had always wanted to experience the 'working OE' (overseas experience) that many of my peers had experienced in their early 20's. However, like many things in my life they have just happened a little slower.
At the age of 31, having worked for the same company for five years and having an eight year relationship end, it felt like a now or never time. I saw advertised on our internal careers page, a Business Manager position based in Cleveland, Ohio. To be honest, I only had a vague idea where in the United States Cleveland was all I knew was that our Head Office was based there and an uncle had spent sometime there doing his OE.
I waltzed into our Asia Pacific CEO's office and said, "I'd like to apply for this position. If my direct boss agrees, would you support this?" Without hesitation, he agreed and even spoke with his counterpart and his boss our global CEO to help land me the job. Within 2 weeks, I was flying to Cleveland for a meet and greet. A month after that I was employed, working odd hours from New Zealand whilst we worked out the specifics of the move.
Moving day arrived and along with my clothes there was 500 kilograms of medical equipment and supplies that was either flying with me or boxed up arriving a few days later.
The company had booked me in to a local motel for two weeks and employed a scout to help me find an accessible apartment. As it worked out, the scout had no idea what mobility accessible actually meant and I soon realised that like most cities and countries, accessible accommodation is an afterthought in architect, developers and town planners minds.
So as it transpired, I stayed put in the 'temporary' motel for the next two years. It wasn't ideal but because it was an accommodation provider, it had to comply with the best piece of legislation that has ever come out of the USA, the Americans' with Disabilities Act.
(Homewood Suites Photo)
I soon found that the American culture was far different to the New Zealand work culture. Whilst New Zealanders work hard and most weeks I'd been working 50-60 hours, Americans live to work. Unwritten rules like you're not to leave until your boss has gone home for the day or only having two weeks annual leave a year made for some long days.
Thankfully, I soon built up some life outside of work. Joining the Cleveland Wheelchair Cavs, a basketball team that practiced an hours drive.