How to make moving to a new place less scary

I thought graduating a semester early would give me the edge I needed to snag the perfect job. Instead, I spent six unemployed months back at my parents’ house doing a whole lot of nothing. None of my friends were around because they were still in school, no one was hiring, and my relationship with television was becoming far too intimate—even for a TV fiend like myself. I mean, you know you’re watching too much Food Network when Ted Allen of Chopped begins narrating your thoughts and you start falling for Guy Fieri. I was growing restless in my post-grad slump and needed things to change ASAP before I did something rash, like profess my undying love to Mr. Fieri.

So I moved. I packed my bags and got out of Dodge. Or Los Angeles, rather. I’m from LA and I went to college in Boston, but after a few recent visits, I couldn’t get the idea of living in the Bay Area out of my head. I’m not quite cut out for the windy, fast-paced tech hub that is San Francisco, but I quickly fell in love with Oakland. It has that California feel that Joni Mitchell and The Beach Boys were always singin’ about, but it’s a little more compact than Los Angeles, which makes it easier to connect with creative communities. I needed an escape and this seemed like a viable option. Only problem? I had nothing. No friends, no place to live, and certainly no promise of a dream job waiting for me. But here I am, nearly a month later, and I’m proud to say I’m not completely flailing. You can do it too, girl. The transition to a new city doesn’t have to be so daunting. There are ways to make it seem less scary.

Take a really serious tour

This is the place you’ll be living for at least the next year, presumably. Check it out and make sure it’s right for you. Is it too big? Too small? Not enough places that sell chicken fingers? Whatever the case, try to get a feel for your potential new home. I was lucky enough to find a one-month sublet in my cousin’s apartment. This allowed me to test Oakland out before deciding to make the big move. It helps to secure a short-term sublet, rent a room through Airbnb, or find a friend in the area who will let you crash for a few days. You can get to know the town and maybe even interview for a job or two while you’re there!

Suss out the job market

Prior to your move, peruse job sites and local businesses in the area you’d like to live. See if you can find anything in line with your interests. Or you might consider taking any old job temporarily until you get your bearings in your new town. I didn’t end up with a position in a creative environment like I’d hoped, but it’s a solid part-time job and I have the flexibility to intern at museums and freelance on the side. I suggest saving a little money before the move so that you’re not living off Wheat Thins in the midst of looking for a job. I’m not saying that happened to me or anything. I just don’t want it to happen to you. Trust me, the taste of Wheat Thins gets old pretty fast.

Look for a community

My cousin was the only person I knew when I arrived in Oakland. She’s also living that 20-somethin life and we get along swimmingly, but let’s be real: I could only mooch off her awesome friend group for so long. Finding cool peeps to call my own was and still is important to me. That’s why when apartment hunting, I pushed aside my introvert tendencies of leaning towards quiet bubbles and focused on finding a place where my roommates could double as my new friends. Sure enough, I found a home where three rad girls were waiting to make me their new bff. And if you end up with the roommates from hell, go to free events, join a club, attend meetings at organizations that cater to something you’re passionate about, volunteer, chat it up with your co-workers—honestly, just walk outside and explore your new environment. Chances are, there are other wandering newbies looking to make friends too. Meet-cutes aren’t reserved for the onset of romantic relationships. You can make life-long friends after toppling over book displays or flubbing your coffee order too.

I’m not saying moving to a new place is totally un-scary. You will have days when you’re sobbing to Sia or nights when you go through several sleeves of cookies while binge-watching all the Jess-centric episodes of Gilmore Girls. But after the initial adjustment, you’ll be saying Netflix who? Or at the very least, you’ll have a friend who can keep up with your dangerous snacking habit and a job that can support it.

Neyat Yohannes is an Eritrean-American gal who just graduated from college in Boston. She’s from LA, but just moved to the Bay. When she’s not writing or trying to be more formidable like Whitley Gilbert+Paris Geller, she’s massaging her scalp with coconut oil and trying to keep Drake lyrics from constantly spilling out of her mouth. You can follow her sad twitter or check out her equally disappointing tumblr.

[Image courtesy Columbia Pictures]