Jonathan Wu is a recent arrival from Toronto, Canada who moved in the polar opposite direction to Tampa, FL for a new job as an insurance actuary. Yeah, we didn’t know what that means either, and it turns out he’s one of only a relative few in the world! Keep reading to learn more about Jonathan’s expat journey, and why he opted to drive 2,000 kms instead of booking a flight.
What do you do for a living?
I got my Masters in Actuarial Science from the University of Waterloo and am now an actuary at a life insurance company. If it sounds like an unfamiliar field, that’s because there are only about 20,000 actuaries in the world! Basically what I do is calculate how much insurance risks and premiums will cost someone and make sure that nothing goes wrong in the process.
What motivated you to move to the U.S.?
I got a job offer at a company based in Tampa, Florida, and I knew it was the right move for my career. Even though moving to a new country seemed like a big step at the time, I decided to just go for it.
Had you been to the U.S. before?
Many times, but I’d only been as far south as Charlotte, North Carolina before I started interviewing for this job.
How do you like Tampa so far?
The weather is amazing, especially compared to Toronto, especially in the winter. I’ve been here for about six months and I don’t have any complaints so far.
What was the transition like?
Some of it was easy, some of it less so. I am on a TN visa, the NAFTA professional visa for skilled workers. All of the paperwork involved in that process was taken care of by my company. Since most of the setup for my life in the States was able to get done online beforehand, all I had to do was come here and actually get settled, which, of course, always requires an adjustment period. I made a couple of trips to Tampa beforehand to get housing and open a bank account, but I wish there was someone around to help guide me through the process and help me get settled faster.
What were your biggest challenges getting settled in the U.S., namely financially (e.g. getting a credit card, getting a loan, etc.)?
Opening up an account of any type is a conundrum. For example, I needed an address and a Social Security number to open a bank account, but in order to get a Social Security Number, I needed an address. Having no credit makes it harder to gauge your trustworthiness as a tenant, so I was nervous about finding housing at first. I had to go to back and forth to money marts and I bought certified checks to finally get something set up.
Credit cards were also out of reach, because there was no way to access my credit files in Canada. And nearly everything in life requires a credit card! I had a hard time getting a cell phone because they needed a credit card on file. I tried to apply online, but after two trials, I couldn’t get one and then just stopped trying altogether. Little things like that make daily living tough — getting gas, groceries, rental cars…
How did you discover Nova Credit?
It was a total accident, actually. I wasn’t looking for a service like Nova Credit because I didn’t even think a service like it existed. But I have some friends who are also immigrants that went through exactly what I was going through and were able to get credit cards from a top tier U.S. card issuer. So I thought to myself, “I should give this a try.”
During the last step of the application process, the bank directed me to Nova Credit to pull my Canadian credit records for me. I had good credit in Canada, so that definitely worked in my favor.
How has Nova Credit helped you?
Nova Credit was able to pull my Canadian credit records for me in minutes, and I was able to get my credit card right away. This opened so many doors for me, because like I mentioned before, without a U.S. credit score, there’s a lot that you can’t do. I was so thankful that Nova Credit could pull my credit file and allow me to live life more easily in the United States. And now I can build up my credit history here.
What’s one thing you knew to avoid doing during your transition to the U.S.?
Buying or leasing a car! I heard a story from a friend who needed to get a car in the U.S., but he of course didn’t have credit, and ended up having to pay for the car entirely in cash. I drove all the way to Tampa from Toronto just to avoid having to buy a car in the U.S.!
What’s one thing about U.S. life that still confuses you even though you’ve been here for six months?
The health care system. We have universal healthcare in Canada, so I could just walk into any hospital and things would go smoothly. Over here, I hear new terms like “open network” and a whole bunch of rules I never had to deal with before. It’s confusing.
Have you found a newcomer community in Tampa to connect with?
Tampa is mostly retirement communities, so not really. The global actuary community is pretty small, as I mentioned, but it’s a surprisingly tight-knit group. I’m constantly traveling for work so I’m very connected to that community wherever I go.
Thank you Jonathan for sharing your story, and congrats on your new chapter in Florida!