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Overcoming Your Work Abroad Fears

Taylor Smith

There's no greater barrier to travel than self-doubt. How to deal with uncertainty—even if you're headed to Iraq.

Everyone wants to travel these days. Social media and increased access to the wonders of the world have inspired minds to wander and dream of another life—a life on the edge of societies and cultures different from our own. A life filled with intrigue and adventure. A life as a world traveller.

But something happens along the way that stops the majority of those wandering minds from packing up their lives and going. For some, it’s the distance from family and friends, and for others, it’s fear of the unknown. Those of us who do take the plunge are considered extreme members of our communities. “I could never do that, you’re so brave,” is the typical response. But I’d like to tell you that you can.

Before I accepted a job in Iraqi Kurdistan, I faced some of the worst uncertainty of my life. I was called impulsive, brave, and every other thing under the sun. Really, I felt like a small scared child wearing a visage.

Before—and even after—I made the decision to accept a job in Iraqi Kurdistan, I faced some of the worst indecision and uncertainty in my life. Safety concerns and fear of letting go kept me up more nights than not. Simply, I was a wreck. I was called crazy, impulsive, brave, extraordinary, and every other thing under the sun. Really, I felt like a small scared child wearing a visage.

I had all the same fears that stop so many others from accepting a job halfway across the world. But I took it, despite feeling like I was going to spontaneously combust into a puddle of tears as I did it. It took me a couple months to work through, but I developed a counterargument for every question that kept me up at night:

What if something happens to me while I’m over there?

What if something happens to you while you’re at home? Would it really be any different? You can’t control life or sickness, so why live in fear of it? If something happens, here or there, you face it either way.

What if something happens to my family back here?

Again, would it hurt so much less if something happened when you were still at home? You’d face those emotions in either location. If something happens, buy a ticket and go home.

What if I hate it?

Then go home! You’re not marrying your job, you’re simply following your heart. If your heart decides that this isn’t for you, what’s stopping you from following it back home, all the more wiser?

What if they hate me?

If they don’t like you, then you have your first lesson in adapting to a new culture and facing adversity. Nobody achieved anything of greatness simply by fitting in.

What if I lose all my friends at home?

Then they weren’t true friends in the first place. You would’ve grown apart either way.

What if I don’t make any friends abroad?

Then you’ll have to learn how to be comfortable with yourself. Being comfortable with being alone is something we should all be capable of anyways.

I worked through these fears every night. I thought about taking a decent job at home and staying with my friends and family, but I knew I’d always wonder about the path untraveled. So I took the plunge. You can too.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith is an Italian American living in Erbil, Iraq. She recently graduated from Emerson College with two degrees in Multimedia Journalism and Political Communication. Currently, she works as a teacher, freelance journalist, and documentarian for local NGOs.

Website: globewatchblog.wordpress.com

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