Moving abroad to a new country is an incredible experience, but be warned: it comes with the risk of looking like a fairly unstable person considering the emotional roller coaster it takes you on.
Exciting, daunting, nerve-wracking, stressful and elating... those are some intense feelings to deal with in one package. Saying that, in my opinion -- as someone who has moved abroad twice, to Australia and Canada -- it's one of the most fulfilling, worthwhile, life-changing experiences out there.
And in saying that, it doesn't hurt (actually, I recommend it strongly) to be prepared for the influx of thoughts that might come your way through the process of moving abroad.
"YAY" or "EEEEEK" or generally "I'M SO EXCITED!!"
The moment you get that confirmation that you're moving abroad -- booking a flight, a visa coming through, getting a job -- cue excited squealing, jumping, celebratory drinks and all that good stuff.
Knowing that a new experience is on the horizon, soaking in the new possibilities, things to discover and people to meet, your mind is likely to go into overdrive. A new country opens up a million travel doors and it feels like you could conquer anything. Everything in the world seems in its right place and you feel content with your lot in life. Things are happening and your smug face just can't hide the happiness (disclaimer: this might annoy others).
"What have I got myself into?!"
After the initial euphoria has ended, the panic sets in. Wait a second, this is a huge life change. You have so much to do: you have to research banks, think about travel or health insurance, find somewhere to live and work.
On top of all that, it's finally dawning on you that you'll have to say goodbye to your family and friends. Sure, depending on how far away you are, they might come and visit, but the reality is your day to day interactions won't be the same.
But, if you don't find yourself thinking "What have I let myself in for?" every once in a while then you're doing it wrong.
Here come the goodbyes. The leaving parties, the final family get together, The Last Supper. Your emotions are not to be trusted at this time: you'll be happy one minute and sobbing into your glass of wine the next. You'll find some friends show how much you mean to them, giving you thoughtful gifts and how others don't really seem that bothered. You'll realize how family is the most important thing in the world and how much they love you.
When you first arrive, the simple task of walking down a street is sort of mind-blowing. Everything is new and exciting; your senses are completely heightened, aware of the sounds, the smells, the little details to notice on buildings, people and surroundings.
It feels like you're on a permanent vacation and you'll enthusiastically go exploring so you can see more of and fall in love with your new home.
"Oh, wait, that's not how you do things here?"
After you've stopped feeling like it's a fun trip, you start to notice the cultural differences. For example, when I moved to Canada (from England) these are the things I found myself saying:
"You sell milk in bags? But... why?"
"What do you mean you don't accept debit cards online?"
"Oh, sorry, I forgot you add tax on afterwards..."
And when I moved to Australia, these things befuddled me:
"You call a pepper a what-now?" (Answer: capsicum. They call a pepper a capsicum.)
"What do you mean I can't take my money out from any bank's ATM without a charge?"
"Um... What did you say?" (This is in reference to the many strange phrases Australians have and their habit of making words as short as possible.)
I can only imagine what it's like for someone whose first language isn't the same as where they've moved. These moments can be really frustrating and make you miss the comfort of being at home in a place where you just know how things work.
But what's nice and helpful to remember is that you're learning and becoming more aware of how other countries function. The hard part will pass and you'll be all the more knowledgeable for it.
"What if I don't like it? What if I can't find friends?"
I call this the Fear of Not Settling In (if only it had a better ring to it...). Once you find a job, a place to live and it sinks in that you're living abroad for the forseeable future (I think this happens whether you're abroad for six months, two years or permanently) you might start to worry if you won't like your newly created life in this new country. Maybe you won't click with the locals, maybe you won't actually enjoy the country or your job. Or simply maybe you much prefer the way things are done at home.
On the other side of things, you might have made the best decision of your life. Your adopted country may become your home away from home and the experiences and friends you've made there will permanently make an impression on you that will always keep you smiling.
It's tough to make friends in a new country when you're starting from scratch and don't know anyone (unless you're studying abroad, which is what I did when I lived in Australia - that's super easy). Trying to find ways and places to make friends when you work all day is very frustrating, takes a lot of trial and error and the kindness of people you've just met.
It's surprising how quickly all of these emotions take hold -- moving abroad is a really exciting, eventful time in a person's life, but can also be stressful or lonely. Balancing life between people at home and your new humble abode abroad can be difficult but the experience will have so many benefits -- plus, you'll have a whole new section of the world to explore, and it doesn't get much better than that.
To read more about my experiences moving abroad, visit my blog, Kirst Over the World.
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Follow Kirsten Powley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kpowley