I have lived in four countries in six years and every time I move abroad, I’ve noticed that there’s a notable psychological, emotional process that you go through (which definitely gets easier by the third and fourth time!) Away from your family and friends, away from everything you know, it’s an emotional rollercoaster – stay strong and you will get through it!
The decision has been made, flights booked, you’ve told the whole world you’re off and there’s no turning back. You keep debating in your head whether this is the best decision or worst mistake of your life and thinking up every possible scenario that could ever happen (good and bad). You spend every day googling your chosen destination, trying to find out as much as possible, although nothing can truly prepare you for what you’re about to experience.
You are at the airport gate on the phone to your best friend terrified, convinced it’s a terrible idea. Despite all your googling, you still have no idea what to expect and you think the best thing to do is to go home and pretend it never happened. Yet somehow, you manage to get on the plane and either, you arrive and all is swell (skip to Stage Three) or you arrive and you don’t speak the language, you have no idea what you are doing. You sit and cry in your 1984-style dorm and question what you are doing with your life. You realise it can’t get any worse, so it can only get better and you put on a brave face, go out and explore.
Everything is new and exciting – a bit scary – but mainly exciting. You go out, have a wander, see what your new home has to offer. You are in awe of everything – the buildings, the metro, the way everyone greets you on the street… you notice immediately the little differences between home and here. You see weird-looking food on the street that you must try. Maybe you meet some cool people, go out, see the sights and think it’s not so bad. You start your job, or your university and you’re excited for what’s to come.
You are finding the language barrier difficult, finding a decent place to live is stressful and you are always lost. You feel like an idiot because you don’t know how to use the metro and you can barely count to ten in Russian let alone ask for directions. You are thousands of miles away from your friends and family. You feel a bit homesick. You just want to gossip with your friends in English and have a home-cooked meal. You are alone and once again questioning what you are doing with your life.
You begin to establish a daily routine, your new home, your route to work and slowly but surely the unfamiliar becomes familiar. The señora in the bakery recognises you in the morning and she greets you, soon you have a “usual”. You manage to buy some vegetables at the supermarket without any trouble and you work out how the old-school gas hob works. You realise that everything will be alright and simple everyday things become your little triumphs. Your language skills are improving, slowly but surely. You meet some people who you actually like and see yourself being friends with.
It’s not all sunshine and butterflies, you’ve had your ups and downs, but before you know it a year has passed and you wonder where all the time went. You can’t imagine not waking up to a man on street yelling “gaaaassss!” from the window, or getting your morning breakfast arepa on your way to work. You reminisce about how clueless you were when you first arrived. Maybe you feel like you’re ready to leave, maybe you couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Either way you feel like a different person and you are ready to take on anything life throws at you.