living abroad

Moving Abroad: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Are you thinking about moving or are about to move abroad? If yes, let me give you the lowdown on what it’s like. I am not going to say I’m a pro at this but having moved countries twice already, I think I can share with you some additional details that might help you (hopefully encourage you) to make the right decision. Whatever that decision may be.

The Good

Why are you moving or considering to move abroad? It could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re trying to escape the pressure at home or perhaps you’re trying to fulfill a lifelong dream. Maybe you’re moving for love. Whatever it may be, at the end of the day, this is a fulfillment of something. Who doesn’t like that, right?

If you enjoy traveling, this is also a great opportunity to discover new places on the long-term (and I’m using the word long-term haphazardly here, I’m just trying to say it’s beyond a regular vacation). Finally, you can fill your Instagram with photos of beautiful places but more than that, this is a chance to get to know new cultures. It’s an opportunity to educate yourself about the world, beyond what’s in your backyard.

In case you are moving for a job, this will look hella good on your resume. A lot of companies put a lot of value towards international experience. Whether you intend to stay permanently or temporarily, this can only amp up your CV.

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The Bad

Homesickness is very real. If you’re the type who is family-centric and are moving solo, be prepared to miss your family and friends. This is challenging especially when there’s a timezone difference between you and your loved ones. You will have to learn how to schedule these calls or simply go on days not Skyping or Facetiming. You will miss a lot of family functions and get-togethers. You will not make it to certain parties or important life events. Homesickness gets even worse when you’re sick or when you’re sick and the weather is just plain dreadful. But this can be managed. I’ve dealt with homesickness myself.

Moving abroad is scary. You probably have to start your life over again — new home, new job, few to no friends, it could be that you don’t know the local language. Everything is new and that alone is terrifying. But that’s the price you have to pay to live elsewhere. You need to learn how to deal with the unknown, there’s no way around it. We cope differently but for me I just think about why I left in the first place. That is enough motivation for me to get through this. Most importantly, what I’ve learned is that when you’re preoccupied, you won’t even notice that you’re homesick. Get a hobby or another job, volunteer, learn the local language. If you do something enjoyable with your time, it gets better.

The Ugly

It’s not easy to move abroad. If you are moving for school or work, you either need a lot of money or luck to do so. If you’re moving to study, you need funds or a scholarship to survive. You might have to work part-time if you don’t have a family supporting you financially.

If you’re leaving to work elsewhere, know that the competition is pretty stiff. To give you a perspective of what you’re facing, you should know that people here (in Europe) graduate with a minimum of a master’s degree. Not only do they have a master’s degree, they’ve also done practicum/internships abroad. Possibly not just one but multiple internships. In Europe, people speak two or more languages. If you’re like me who despite graduating from a premiere university in my home country, there’s just no way you or I can compete with this. Just keep submitting your CV on job boards or to companies directly. But be prepared to be rejected many times. It might take you years and years to find the right opportunity. Be patient because you will not miss what’s truly yours.

Now if you’re moving for love, I only have one tip — take good care of yourself first. Do not ever forget that if that person leaves you, you’re on your own. Take care of yourself first, always.

There is hope.

Remember that it is not impossible to move to another country or continent. It is just a more difficult process for others especially if you’re coming from a third-world country. You need to go through more stringent processes than others. However, that makes it even more satisfying when you achieve it. Good luck and all the best on your quest for a new life overseas.

5 Things Nobody Told Me About Living Abroad

So you've decided to take a job or study abroad. You packed your bags, looked forward to what could be the biggest adventure of your life, and hoped that nothing will go wrong. Before you left and even after you've landed, people compliment you for being such a brave soul. But I wish somebody told me about these things...

  1. Learning the local language will make your life 10 or even 100 times easier. You're somehow lucky if you live in Amsterdam where English is widely spoken. But if you end up in Eastern Europe or pretty much anywhere in Western Europe, you have to brace yourself and get used to being ignored by the locals if you don't speak the local language. Forget that English is a widely-spoken language. I've experienced no matter how many people can speak and understand English, some will really just refuse to switch to English to accommodate foreigners. You're in their country, you should adjust. It's not easy but you'll appreciate learning a language when you start being able to express yourself and be understood despite your grammatical mistakes. Plus, it makes locals want to help you more because you are making an effort to connect with them in their native language.
  2. Racism is not a myth. It's cold and it's real. You will not know how real racism is until you experience it first-hand. I was on a bus in Hamburg and was sitting next to the window. Next to me is a homeless guy, reeking of alcohol and talking loudly to his friend who's standing right next to the door. As I got a few seconds closer to my stop, I politely excused myself. (Entschuldigen Sie bitte. Ich muss aussteigen.) The guy was annoyed that he had to stand so I can get out of my seat and started screaming expletives. He then spoke in English and said, "go back to China, you little princess!" It was so embarrassing but I was also very scared that he would hit me.
  3. You have to take care of your health at all costs. Believe me, when you're in a foreign country, there's a huge tendency that you will try to endure those little health issues. But you should not at all. Make sure that you have a first aid kit at home for those minor booboos (cuts, burns) and not so major illnesses (flu, headache, etc.). And if in doubt, go to a doctor. Screw language barrier. Get yourself checked by a specialist. You will be thankful every time you avoid a prolonged trip to the hospital.
  4. Alone does not mean lonely. During my college years, I was a complete extrovert and easily defined being alone as being lonely. But after four years of living solo in foreign countries, I realized that that is not true at all! Turns out, one can be content and happy even if you're not surrounded by people. Of course it can get lonely sometimes especially if you're sick. But it does feel good to have some quiet time to enjoy yourself.
  5. Living abroad will be one of the best decisions I'll ever make. It's scary to get out of your comfort zone and live alone in a country where you don't speak the language and you don't know anyone. But I have zero regrets and will do it again because it has been quite a learning experience. I've learned about people, cultures, traditions, beyond books (or the internet for that matter). It has changed me so much. Living abroad taught me how to be self-reliant, open-minded and be more understanding of others.