Any former or current expat will tell you that life in abroad can be both incredibly exciting and incredibly challenging. You're living in a foreign country, where you don't know anyone. If that doesn't scare you enough, you also have to worry about a new job, a new apartment, and dozens of other things that you haven't thought of yet. Being an expat is a double-sided coin. There are the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.
Despite the challenges, in the end (for me at least), it's turned out to be one of the most life-changing, challenging and incredible experiences of my life. Here's what I've faced along the way.
Navigating a new city
Low: Stepping off the plane and into a brand new city is completely overwhelming. It's enough to make you want to crawl back into economy and fly another gruelling 10 or so hours to get right back to where you came from (even if that means sitting next to a crying baby). You're saddled with the task of finding yourself a new hairdresser, grocery store, eyebrow waxer, and well, you get the picture. It's A LOT to handle.
High: Then again, stepping off the plane can be an exhilarating experience. You have hundreds of miles of unexplored territory laid out in front of you (and I'm willing to bet as an expat, you like a little adventure). Not only do you have a bunch of new things to see, but you also have the time to see it. You get to learn the ins and outs of the city just like a local would, after doing all the kitschy tourist stuff of course.
Being away from your support system
Low: A good support system is necessary to live a full and happy life. Usually, this support system comes from close friend and family. But as an expat, you don't have that luxury. Building a community takes time; it's not exactly something you can do in a day. It can get lonely, especially the first couple months when you're still figuring out time differences with your loved ones back home. Have faith that you will find your tribe.
You will learn to rely on yourself for love and support. That's an incredible skill that many adults don't have.
High: Being away from your family and friends also had a few positives, believe it or not. You will learn to rely on yourself for love and support. That's an incredible skill that many adults don't have. You'll develop a thicker skin, and learn to be your own best friend. So when the next time a bout of loneliness hits, or you are under a ton of stress, you can remember that you've faced worse.
Not knowing a soul
Low: Loneliness is not a popular feeling, and for a good reason. It makes you second-guess everything you thought you knew about yourself. Stepping into a brand new country, where you don't know a single person is daunting. (P.S. Still trying to figure out where adults meet friends if they don't go to school.)
High: Sure, you don't know anyone. But also, you don't know ANYONE. That's great! Hear me out. When friends and family always surround you, you're often weighed down by their expectations of who you are. You act as you normally would, because, well, that's who you are around them. But now, you can be whoever it is you always wanted to be.
Low: At times, you may feel negative about your experience as an expat, especially just before you make the big move. Even the most optimistic travellers will get a few pre-move jitters. Being scared is okay. Being completely terrified is okay. You just have to continue anyway.
High: I've always believed the difference between an average life and an epic life has to do with uncertainty. More specifically, your ability to make friends with said uncertainty. Anyone who has ever done anything great has had to embrace the risk of the outcome. Being an expat teaches you how to live peacefully with uncertainty in your life.Add this article to your reading list