Moving abroad is a great experience that can teach us a lot about ourselves, about life, about others and other cultures. Everyone should try it at least once. To see how small we are, how closeminded we are(no matter how openminded we think we are). We are living in our own universes not realizing that the world is so big and rich in cultures, on experiences, on stories.
Of course, traveling helps, but only if you find the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. Realizing that the word “normal” has no exact definition. Because what is normal for some, is weird for others and vice versa. Some of it it’s hard to see as a tourist and living abroad opens all those experiences and self-realization that traveling itself cannot.
There are people who have no courage to do it at all. There are people who have done it for a while and found out that it’s not their thing. And there are ones that are excited about it and would do it again and again in different places. There are ups and downs in it, and there are brightness and darkness of it.
I have been living in the US since 2012 and visited a few times for 3 months before that. Since then I have lived in about 5 different states. And here is what I realized about living abroad. A lot of people will ask: ”What is it like?” Moving abroad is a complex of things. It’s actually beautiful, interesting, scary, educational, emotional, lonely, fun, and inspirational. It’s hard to explain but only the ones that have been through it will fully understand every single aspect of it. Here are 10 things that you will definitely experience when you move abroad by yourself.
Nostalgia is a B*. It doesn’t matter how long ago you have moved away. Or if you are abroad temporarily or permanently, when nostalgia kicks in there is nothing you can do to stop it. The feeling of being homesick is one of the hardest parts of living abroad. It’s a weird feeling of missing home, an urgent need to be there right now, at this moment. It immediately makes you forget all the fun and the excitement, and all the cool things about your adopted country. The strong need you feel for the comfort of being home to your roots beats up to death all your dreams, expectations, and effort you put for your life in the new place. And you just want to leave everything and go back. It makes you remember and appreciate all those little things that you never paid attention to before you leave. It makes you remember all the beautiful moments, all the smiles, all the flavors, all the love, and all the fun of being home. It makes you smile at all the things that used to piss you off. It makes you think of home as this dreamy fairytale happy place that nothing bad ever happens, where you are loved, welcomed and connected to everything. Nostalgy is a rollercoaster of emotions, love, and sadness for your homeplace.
2. You will feel misunderstood half of the time.
No matter how many years I’ve lived here, I still have moments of feeling misunderstood. It might be the language, it might be the culture or both. Everybody feels weird and/or a little dumb when learning or applying new things in life. Think about anything that you have ever tried to learn. How exhausting is all the new information you get every day? And when you move abroad everything is new – language, culture, people. So trying to explain yourself or learn and apply the new way of living makes you feel not as smart as you wish. Being misunderstood a lot makes you feel like a dummy many times. You feel like a newbie in everything. And it’s exhausting.
But also there is a sweetness of it. This is how you come out of your comfort zone, and actually find comfort in that change, learn new things. This is how you let go of your ego and change into the person that “moving abroad” is going to make you. It’s not a bad thing to ask questions. It’s not a bad thing to be new at something and learn. As long as you are patient with yourself and open about it, there are always going to be people to help you.
3. You will change.
Change is a good thing no matter what. You will change. You are not going to be the same self you were before in so many different aspects. Sometimes you won’t be able to recognize yourself. You will start finding the change little by little building up after every new experience. You will grow to a level that you haven’t thought before. Your mind will expand. You will meet yourself in situations, people, and experiences. And here is the best part, the beauty of moving abroad is exactly that change. It comes slowly, sometimes without even noticing it. At some point when we look back, we realize how different we are from what we were before. And we are still ourselves but changed.
4. You can invent a new life.
Moving abroad is an opportunity to build a new life, and take yourself out of your comfort zone. To your new life, you can apply the best parts of your old life. Finding the things you like in your new culture and implement it in your daily routine. Find the perfect balance between both. Some people are struggling with getting out of their comfort zone. Well, when you are living abroad, every day you are out of your comfort zone. At least in the beginning. But also don’t forget that the only thing you always take with you, no matter where you go is YOU. You always have it as a base and from there you can build anything. 🙂
5. Learning a new language in school and using it every day with native speakers are two very different things.
Picking up the language is not as easy as it seems, no matter how ready you think you are and how long you have studied it for. When I moved I realized that I have only the base of being able to communicate. New language learning includes many struggles like being misunderstood, sounding funny, and not being able to express yourself. If your vocabulary is rich in words then maybe you don’t really understand some of the slang and typical phrases and vice versa. Openly speaking it costs you again your ego and comfort zone. It takes years of improvement in reading books, speaking with people, and continues learning every day. Very helpful is to accept constructive criticism and ask all your close native speakers to help and correct you whenever you make a mistake. Again, it’s a little hurtful for the ego in the beginning but as long as you accept yourself as who you are and that you are new. That, you are learning and that it’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from it.
6. You will have more than one home.
Everywhere you go becomes a part of yourself somehow. I was and still am in love with the city I was born and raised in. (Plovdiv is such a special place for me. It’s the first place I ever fell in love with. It’s the place I feel pride for everything it is and sadness for not being there every time I talk about it. Eventually, I will write more about it) I thought Plovdiv is a home for me and, of course, it is and always will be. But living in so many places until now, I kind of found home in Chicago and Miami for different reasons. Still, when I return to either of them I feel like home. Coming back home to Chicago, after all my travels. Having this sweet nostalgic feeling of home every time I walk on the streets of Miami. Even New Orleans I feel like home because I visit often. Anchorage became my home. It’s the Art of finding a home in every place your foreign family is AKA your friends. It’s not a substitute for your home place in your heart. It’s upgrading it by adding small pieces of each place you feel safe and connected to. Plovdiv will always be there and it’s special for me. But now I now that home can be many places which have a bigger or smaller piece of your soul.
7.Finding new friends is not what you think would be.
Moving to a completely new country with a totally different language from your native one is like the first day at a new school. Every day. Different cultures warm up to people differently. So I found myself with a few good friends over time.
For example, here in the US people seem very warm, welcoming, and acceptable at first. Everywhere – in the store, at work, in public. But very few actually care how are you and will be there for you. And it’s the opposite in Europe. People seem to be, a little rude. Not smiling and overly excited about welcoming others, but will still be polite. And with the time when they warm up to you and befriend you, they will be there for you. I kind of see it as a slower but stronger friendship foundation. Nothing wrong with either way of befriending people. Both have pros and cons , they are just different.
That being said, making good friends in the adopted country could be a little difficult in the beginning but definitely worth it. You will meet a lot of interesting people. You will have a lot of acquaintances that are fun, welcoming, and wonderful people. You can also find friends and community who become your family in the new country. Those would be friendships for life. Those are usually other foreign people who are going through the same. A lot of the local people won’t really understand the many aspects of your foreign life. Only because they have never been in that situation. Thus, in the end, you kind of always seek a community that is going through or have been through the same things you are.
8. All your support is far away. You are on your own.
Many times, at the beginning of your life abroad, (before you find those wonderful friends that will be your new family), all your support is back home. Family, friends, relatives are all very far so you find yourself dealing with a lot of situations by yourself. That builds your character and it’s a good thing. But many times you feel alone and lonely. Many times going through hard times, I would not even share them with my family back home. Sometimes not to stress them. Sometimes because they won’t understand. So, often there is nobody to really rely on, but you. And this is where YOU need to be there for YOURSELF.
9.You will learn to love your family for who they are.
Every family in the world is different and there are no rules of what the perfect family should be. No family is perfect. I learned that, living far away from them. Every family argues sometimes. Every family has crazy moments, different traditions, loving moments, and everything that comes with having a family. And mine is no different. They are not perfect, nor am I, but they are mine. I wouldn’t trade them for anybody else. We are all different people. To be a family we don’t need to be the same characters and with the same interests. Living abroad, I’ve learned to love and accept them for who they are. To let them be, and just enjoy and appreciate every moment when we are together.
10. You become stronger and self confident.
Dealing with all the above you become a stronger version of yourself. It’s knowing that you can survive and deal with anything. Moving a couple of times teach you that it’s not easy, but it’s possible. It’s very sad sometimes, but also very very happy and a lot of fun at other times. The beauty of change and the fear of the unknown mixed with the excitement of all the new adventures that life can and will offer you. After moving abroad, you will know that if you did it once, you can do it many times. And if you adjust to your life in one place, you can do it elsewhere. It’s kind of addictive too 🙂