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Moving abroad to a new country can be a truly daunting experience. Not only are you leaving behind friends and family, but even adjusting to different store opening hours, finding your way around the supermarket, and seeking out that one bar to become your local can be challenging.
I have lived abroad for some time now and in a few different countries. While none of these experiences have been the same, there have been things I have learnt to make things easier on myself and for those around me.
- Find yourself a new best friend. Obviously, this is a lot harder said than done. Exploring a new city in the beginning is fun and exciting; but over time, you want to share this with someone who also has similar interests to you. Don't be afraid of appearing too eager or clingy.
- Take up a new sport. I've never been one for team sports, nor regular exercise. At school I dabbled with the hockey team, and uni sports definitely were not on my radar apart from the occasional gym session; but I have found joining a sports club like rowing and climbing has really opened up my social network, and allowed me to feel more at home in my new city because of the regular routine and familiar faces.
- Utilise Facebook. I know, I know—facebook is the devil, selling our data and slowly taking over the world. But seriously, everyone is using it nowadays so keep signing up to events, like those pages, and soon, the algorithm will kick in and the best events and places will soon be suggested for you to explore.
- Try and make friends outside of work. As an expat working in an international company, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of just being friends with colleagues. Of course, it's not a bad thing to; but when you are in a work bubble, it can be difficult to then get out. Make sure you have a good balance and in the long run, it will be healthier and more pleasant to not all be thinking/talking about work all the time.
- Don't expect things to be the same when you go back home. Living abroad changes you. Not only do you gain more independence, meet new people, and have new experiences, but things prior to your new venture seem somewhat smaller. Not any less significant, but definitely smaller. I had a hard time adjusting to life back home after travelling and study. Now that I'm living abroad on a more permanent basis, I noticed how I have changed each time I visit friends and family at home. I have learnt not to try and make things the way they were, but to embrace the fact that I am a different person. One thing I am terribly guilty of is keeping contact with friends and family. Whether it's friends from high school or those I have met abroad, an odd message here and there never hurts to remind them that you are thinking of them and appreciate their friendship. With family, I have a harder time, especially as we are not the most technology focused family out there. However, as they have improved, I have most definitely worsened. Be sure to take some time out every now and then to share an update with your nearest and dearest. They will appreciate it, and so will you when you just need that sense of familiarity after a bad day.
- Last and most importantly, be open to new experiences and be prepared to put yourself out there, especially if you are in a country that does not speak your language. It's ok if it doesn't work out, your life will only be richer from the experience of moving abroad, even if it was only a short term adventure.