The Pros and Cons of Relocating for VISTA

By Alyson Shaw Workforce Access and Diversity Specialist – Summit Academy OIC

I had never been to Minneapolis before I moved here for AmeriCorps VISTA in July. Being from Pittsburgh, I knew very little about the Midwest or Minnesota, and my friends all thought I was crazy for moving to a “flyover state.” I ended up being really happy in the Twin Cities. The non-profit sector here is huge and there’s always a lot going on in the cities so I’m never bored.

But just like anything there were positives and negatives to my move. So if you are thinking of doing the same–leaving home and moving to the Twin Cities to serve in AmeriCorps VISTA–then this blog is for you. Some things to consider:

Con: You leave old friends.
This should come as no surprise: leaving friends is tough. Once you’re busy doing awesome things in the Twin Cities, it becomes a challenge to keep in touch with people back home. And having to fly to see the people you’re closest to in the world is hard, especially when you make no money.

Pro: You make new friends.
AmeriCorps is actually a great way to meet people when you’re moving to a new city. You are thrown together with people who have also recently graduated, are also passionate about social justice, and who are probably in similar life situations as you. I’ve met my girlfriend and basically all of my friends through AmeriCorps, and have a wonderful cohort to spend every other Friday with. Making friends in a new city is hard, but AmeriCorps makes it a lot easier.

Con: Networking is pointless.
You have to network. But, if you’re planning on leaving the area, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to network in the Twin Cities. If you do really like networking, don’t worry. There are plenty of opportunities to do so in the Twin Cities.

Pro: Networking is pointless.
I don’t like networking. So leaving the area after your term is a good excuse not to do it. PSEI does put an emphasis on networking skills though, so even if you don’t like actually doing it, at least you will know how to.

Pro: You get $$$$$ for relocating.
Actually moving all of your stuff across the country is one of my least favorite parts of moving. But AmeriCorps VISTA gives you a decent amount of money for relocating and travel costs, depending on where you’re relocating from. This was incredibly helpful while moving into my apartment and replacing things that I inevitably lost in the move.

Con: That $$$$$ does not last.
The money that I got for relocating definitely spoiled me. I thought living on a VISTA salary was going to be a piece of cake. Then that relocation money ran out and the real VISTA stipend life kicked in. Dealing with the Hennepin County Dept. Of Human Services is fun though…

Con: Living through a Minnesota winter.
Yes, you heard right. Minnesota is very cold.  You’ll be lucky if the temperature gets above 25 degrees from October to April. Just be prepared for it.

Pro: Telling people that you lived through a Minnesota winter.
I’m from Pennsylvania, where the only thing that people really know about Minnesota is that it’s cold. I can’t tell you how many people have not contacted me since I moved, except to ask me how the cold weather is. If you’re from another, warmer part of the country, you’ll definitely earn some street cred for living through a Minnesota winter.

Looking back, I believe I made the right choice by moving to the Twin Cities to do my VISTA year. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I like my service and the people I do it with, and I’ve really enjoyed exploring Minneapolis and all of its lakes. Sure there were downsides, but my experience with Phillips VISTA in Minneapolis was worth it.