What Moving Abroad Is Really Like (Part I)
Thinking about going abroad for uni or work? Moving to a different country can be a transformative experience. It’ll give you countless opportunities to grow as you discover new places and meet people you never would have met back home. However, it also involves plenty of challenges and frustrations.
Ask anyone why they decided to move abroad and ‘travelling’ will be one of the first things they’ll say.
Moving to a different country will give you the opportunity to visit many new, exciting places. In fact, it’s entirely possible that at some point you’ll have seen more of the host country than the locals have. Ironically, you might find that you’ve only seen a small part of your own country as compared to the other travellers you’ll meet.
You’ll also end up spending a considerable amount of time going back to visit friends and family. This will range from frequent and short trips if you’re close to a few longer stays if you’re on a different continent. Naturally, the further you go, the more planning is involved. You might even have to plan your next Christmas as early as New Year’s Day.
Hopefully, having to really plan your trips back home will give you superb organisational skills. However, ‘time management’ reaches a whole new level when you have to deal with time zones.
It sounds crazy, but even a one-hour difference can be a problem. You’ll need to keep track of the time back home so it’s never too late (or too early) to call. Naturally, things become much more complicated if it’s several hours. In this case your two options are staying up really late or waking up at the crack of dawn.
You’ll have to account for differences in how holidays are distributed across the year. Unfortunately even the more ‘global’ holidays like Christmas or Easter might not last the same amount of time in different countries. This means you’ll have to use up more leave than your colleagues if you want to spend holidays with family and friends. If you’re a student and the vacation periods don’t line up, seeing your school friends might also become close to impossible.
3. Video Calls
Keeping in touch with family and friends is really tough when you live in different countries. Fortunately apps like Skype and Facetime can make it a little easier. Phone calls are great, but let’s be honest – sometimes you just have to speak to someone face-to-face.
Naturally, there are a few things that you need to think about. First of all, having a good Internet connection at your new place will be extremely important. Unless of course you don’t mind watching your friends’ faces freeze on the screen in the most unflattering of grimaces. Secondly, you might have to educate some people (usually older relatives) about certain things. For example, that the camera should point at their faces and not at the picture on the wall behind them. Or that they shouldn’t just go and leave the room, leaving you staring at that picture.
Of course a video call is never the same as having a conversation with someone sitting next to you. However, seeing someone on your screen makes it feel like they’re a little bit closer, even if you’re separated by an ocean. And don’t forget you can simply end the call and blame it on your Internet connection if they annoy you!
Moving to a new country also changes the way you think about money.
At first you’ll be comparing and/or converting all the prices, and having a mental breakdown every time you buy something as silly as a loaf of bread. If you’ve only just arrived, you’ll also have some of your home currency in your wallet. This means that at some point you’ll accidentally try to pay for something using the wrong money. This can be quite embarrassing and stressful – especially since you’ll also get yelled at by a confused cashier.
If you’re moving abroad for a well-paying job, remember that you’ll likely spend lots of money before you even get there. Of course, even a move to a different city can be quite expensive. However, moving countries comes with a lot of hidden expenses in addition to obvious things like health insurance and visa costs. For example, you’ll have to either account for international shipping or buy everything you need upon arrival. Initially you also won’t be able to rely on friends for help with things like moving furniture. Instead, you’ll have to pay someone to do it for you.
Living in a different country will obviously help you improve your foreign language skills. But did you know it can also affect the way you speak your mother tongue?
This is especially true if you try to really immerse yourself into the language that’s spoken in your host country. Surrounding yourself with native-speakers, reading the news and watching local TV shows will make you fluent in no time… but it can also make it harder to speak your native language. You’ll likely struggle the most with topics related to your studies or work. However, your everyday language will also likely be affected. You might use the wrong sentence structure, literally translate idioms or struggle to remember certain words in your language.
Even if you decide not to learn the language of your destination, the way you speak will still change. You’ll likely start using expressions that will mean something to your other expat friends, but would be completely unintelligible to anyone else.
Chances are you won’t even realize just how much the way you speak has been affected by your stay abroad. Not until someone back home stares at you in complete and utter confusion.
Marta is a Warwick graduate with a Masters for Research in Italian Studies. Fluent in three languages, she is passionate about people, research and intercultural communication. Find her on LinkedIn and her personal blog.
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