I was excited to start my career and simultaneously pursue my passion for travel. I decided to work as a temp for Dental Connections full time for the flexibility to travel every few months. I would work all around the Seattle area, gaining knew knowledge and experience working in different demographic areas. Every few months I would take off and go backpacking for as long as my budget would allow before coming back and repeating the process. A little over a year later, I decided I wanted to move to central Europe to hopefully work and travel on a more balanced schedule. My search for Dental Hygiene abroad was a challenge. The first time I expressed interest in working internationally as a Hygienist was in school and lead to a couple of dead ends. Online, my research came up with outdated information or volunteer opportunities only. Using networking skills I finally met a Hygienist who worked in Switzerland in the 80’s. She said she no longer had a contact for me abroad but suggested asking on a Dental Hygiene Facebook page. That very same day I posted on Facebook and thankfully got a message from an RDH working in Germany. Three weeks later I was on a plane with two suitcases and my cat, Alfred. I had never visited Germany before and did not know a single person living there. My passion for travel and my support at home gave me the courage to take the leap blindly. I never spoke on the phone or had a video call with the office, all communication was via email. It was quite the risk. It was also the best decision I have ever made.
Once I arrived in Germany I had ninety days to obtain a work visa and residence permit. On top of the paperwork for the immigration office, I also had to find a place to live, a phone, a bank, a car, insurance, taxes etc. There is so much that goes into moving to another country besides obtaining residency there. In Germany and multiple other countries Dental Hygiene is not a recognized profession, meaning there are no accreditation standards or programs. This allows Hygienists licensed in the United States to obtain work in these countries as long as their license stays active in the U.S. In Germany specifically, there is a large U.S. military community who have family members needing care. This helps with the language barrier. I did not know any German upon arrival. Depending on where you are working and your patient demographic, you may need to take German classes to become fluent once you arrive.
Working in Germany and other countries who have not previously focused on preventative care can be extremely rewarding. Immersing yourself in a new culture will forever change you. I know hygienists who have moved to Germany with their children, spouses and animals. I met the love of my life in Germany and married him there. During my time abroad I travelled to 32 new countries and made a lifetime of memories. Living in Europe taught me to slow down and to focus on health.