Houston newcomer shares experience, advice

Original article published in the Houston Chronicle: “On the Move”

Houston newcomer shares experience, advice

Jessica Donahue

Moving to a new city and settling in can be daunting and stressful in the best of times.  So, image moving to Houston and experiencing a major weather event like Hurricane Harvey just three weeks after arriving.

That’s exactly what happened to Jessica Donahue, who relocated to Houston with her husband last year from Redding, California.

But surprisingly, the flooding and devastation that they witnessed didn’t discourage them or cast any doubts about their decision to move to Houston.

Much to the contrary, it strengthened that decision, and gave them deeper insight into the people who call Houston home.  They were exposed to the kindness of their new neighbors, and experienced firsthand the sense of community that is so well-known among Houston residents.

Like many newcomers, Donahue’s first visit to Houston was during a home finding trip following her husband’s acceptance of a new job here.

“I had never been to Texas before, but I had always heard that Houston was a great place to live.  So, I was really eager to see that for myself, and I do think that there’s a lot of livability in Houston,” said Donahue.

When they moved here, she said that they chose to live in The Heights, as the urban location and artsy vibe fit their lifestyle.  And fortunately, they did not suffer any personal flooding as a result of the storm.

“We were lucky that we chose a place that didn’t flood.  We had no idea about that, and so flooding was not a thought that had even crossed our minds,” said Donahue.

She added that she felt prepared about the move in general though, because she had done a lot of research, and had reached out to some mutual connections and friends in Houston, who were able to answer many of her questions and make useful recommendations.

“We had two sets of friends who we knew through other friends, and similar to us, they had moved here in their late 20s or early 30s,” explained Donahue.  “They had rented and then purchased homes and were pleased with their Realtors, so they provided some warm introductions for us.”

She said that the best advice that she has for other people who might be moving to Houston is to take the same approach, and reach out to people they might know who live here.

“No matter how distant the connection might be, if people are willing to meet with you and offer their advice over a beer or a cup of coffee, always accept that offer. People here are very warm and friendly, so we almost always made that happen, and we met a lot of people that way.”

Being open to meeting people can be a gateway to other social opportunities.  In Donahue’s case, it led to joining a book club, as well as introductions to people who could offer practical advice about things like finding a new doctor.

“The thing that I will always say is how impressed I was at the beginning, and how impressed I still am by how nice people are in Houston,” explained Donahue.  “Californians are sunny and warm, and they are really quite nice too, but Houstonians and Texans are warm and inviting in a way that I have never experienced before I moved here.”

Another unexpected twist for Donahue when she moved here, was that her own career would end up intersecting with relocation.

Again, by leveraging her contacts, she spoke to a former colleague who knew the founder of The Black Sheep Agency, which is a brand strategy agency in Houston.  So, Donahue began working there just two weeks after her move.

She said that her job has introduced her to some really inspiring community leaders who are committed to making Houston the best place possible for people to live.

“One of my clients is The Fay School, an academically rigorous and dynamic private school. Their approach to education focuses students on learning about the world around them, which is core to how they serve families, both those who are local and long-time Houstonians, as well families moving here from across the country and abroad,” said Donahue.

Combined Arms, which serves Houston’s veteran population, is another one of Donahue’s clients.  She said that Houston has the second largest veteran population in the country, and that Combined Arms is disrupting the traditional transition process, which is often fragmented and difficult to navigate.

“As someone who has recently moved here, I can see how this city can be a welcoming home for such a diverse population,” Donahue said.

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