7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving Abroad
Today I am 28 years and two days old, and while most of the times I act like a kid, I think slowly I’m gaining some wisdom. Lately, I have been thinking about this journey I embarked on almost a decade ago. For those of you who might not know me, my name is Michela and I am an expat. An immigrant. A dual citizen. But mostly, a person who’s still trying to figure out this whole moving abroad thing.
It wasn’t always easy, this journey of mine, but somehow I made it work. Leaving my beloved Italian coast and moving to The United States was the most challenging thing I’ve ever experienced, and I sure wished I had someone to help me prepare for all the changes I was going to face. So, if you are thinking about leaving your home-country and moving abroad, let me tell you some of the things I wish.
- Culture Shock Is No Joke
Most people think culture shock only happens when they move to a place that is drastically different. Truth is, culture shock can happen in any situation. Even if you move within the same country. I find the best way to cope with culture shock is ask questions. Ask about the things that scare you, ask about laws, ask about social constructs, ask about anything you see as different from your own culture. Understanding what is different is the first step to getting acclimated and embracing your new culture.
2. Brain Overload
When I first moved to the US, I had terrible migraines. At first, I thought it might be related to a dietary imbalance or being exposed to new pollen. After a while, I realized I was just overloaded. If you move to a country that does not speak your mother tongue, especially if you are not fluent in the local language, your brain will work double all day every day! My migraines were connected to the fact that I was using my brain so much, just to complete mundane tasks.
Talking to people, listening, reading signs, and watching TV. So overwhelming! But here is a simple trick. If you feel overwhelmed, allow yourself even just 20 minutes a day of pure silence. remind yourself that this too shall pass. One day you’re going to wake up and realize you just had a dream in your second language. And that, my friend, is when things will slowly start to get easier.
3. You’ll Crave Food More Than A Pregnant Woman
Thing is, most times you can’t just drive down the road and grab what you are craving for. Chances are, your beloved food is not sold in your new country, or might even be illegal (looking at you Kinder Surprise Egg). Honestly, you’ll just have to wait it out. Or maybe find some alternatives, or finding a copycat recipe.
4. Skype, Whatsapp, And FB Messenger Will Become Your New Best Friends
Thank God for technology! It’s incredible to think how easy it is to keep in touch with your loved ones across the globe. A simple text, picture, or video goes a long way. My phone is stocked with all the messaging and social media apps you can think of. And luckily most of now days calling apps are free. I can’t even imagine the days when my parents would spend $30 for a quick phone call at the good ‘ole payphone. #blessed
5. Eventually, You’ll Need Closure
I moved to the United States and didn’t get a chance to visit my home-country until almost a decade later. It was extremely difficult. I spent years thinking about my home and wondering if I had made the right decision. I wasn’t giving myself the chance to accept my new culture, or thinking about settling down because the thought of my own town, country, and culture was still haunting me. Finally, this year I was able to go back to my birth country and it was what I need all those years spent pining. That trip brought me the closure I was craving for. I needed to go back to realize that chapter was over and it was finally time to turn the page and start writing about something new.
6. It Never Gets Easier
Is it fair to miss a place you no longer call home? Years will pass and you will finally allow yourself to settle down. To become familiar with those new places. Find a new place to call home. To start your own traditions. Yet, a small part of you will always long for that place you first called home. And at times like these, with the holidays approaching, nostalgia kicks in, and you’ll find yourself going down memory lane and sharing a few tears. It’s inevitable. And that’s OK.
7. You’ll Realize That Moving Was The Right Decision
Although moving to a specific place might not be the right decision (you might realize you are unhappy where you are and move elsewhere), moving away is exactly what you need. Moving abroad exposed you to so many experiences you would not have if you stay in your own country. You might face lots of adversities, each of those adversities will shape you into the amazing person you will become. Each experience matters.