Moving away is never easy, but moving by yourself, to a place you have never been before, where you don’t know anybody? Now that is a full on challenge! And no matter how long you have been planning for this or how excited you were for this move, it’s okay to feel a little overwhelmed and homesick at first. Adapting to a new home and a new environment is hard, but here are some tips to make the transition easier.
make yourself at home
I hate unpacking. I will push it back as long as I can until practically everything is out of the suitcase and I can’t find anything. But, one of the first steps to feel at home in your new place is to make it your home. Now, depending on how long you will be living abroad, you probably don’t want to repaint the whole place and put up wallpaper, but unpacking and putting your personal touch on your living environment will go a long way. Personally, I like to bring some photographs of my friends and family and some of my favorite memories and hang them on my bedroom wall. I instantly feel more at home after seeing their smiling faces. I also like to buy some inexpensive décor pieces like a shower curtain, throw blanket or cookie jar. With these quick little changes you won’t feel like you are living in a stranger’s home anymore.
When you are feeling homesick and overwhelmed, it’s tempting to just stay home binge watching reruns of your favorite shows, but you have to push yourself and discover how amazing this new city is. Start small by finding the grocery store, post office, your work location (if you are going abroad to work) and other places you will need to find in the first few days. You will feel much more confident once you start knowing how to get to places. Then, when you have the basic things down, find the places you will want to explore further in the upcoming weeks. It can be a nice coffee shop, a cute park, an interesting restaurant, a hiking trail, anything that looks interesting. It will give you something to look forward to in the next few weeks and even activities you can propose to new friends.
Yes, some things will be different than what you are used to, but different doesn’t mean wrong. I am used to buying milk in a bag. Unfortunately, it seems bagged milk doesn’t exist anywhere else than at home. My first time living abroad, this came to me as a shock. If milk wasn’t in a bag, what else would be different? Turns out, milk in a carton tastes just as good and that is all that matters. So the people in this new city might be used to saying hi to everyone they see in the street (I’m not), they might dress differently, they might gather at the same restaurant every Friday night, they might buy food at a market instead of a grocery store, they might let pets go into the stores and they might not know how good ketchup chips are, who cares really? You can get used to pretty much anything in time and you will. In a few weeks, all of these little weird things will seem completely normal to you. Just give yourself some time and keep your mind open to changes.
Find some friends
Hard times are always easier with friends! Depending on why you are living abroad, it might be easier to find new friends at work or at school since you already have something in common. You can also sign up for a fitness class, art class or book club and find great friends there that have the same interests as you. If you are on a work or study abroad program, check out their activities for new arrivals. There are probably other people in the same situation as you are, just trying to get used to this new city.
stay in touch
Moving temporarily to a new country or city can be hard on you, but think about the friends and family you are leaving behind who worry about you and wonder how you are doing. It’s important to keep them up-to-date with your adventure. It can also give you a new perspective on the problems you are having with adapting to this new place or remind you why decided to come in the first place. In any case, friends and family always have your back and you will feel much better after talking to a friendly face, especially if you haven’t spoken your mother tongue since you arrived. Although staying in touch with your loved ones back home is a good thing, don’t forget that you are in this brand new place where adventure and great friends are waiting for you. You don’t want to spend all of your time there talking to people back home.
No matter how hard it can seem in the beginning, remember that it will get better. The first few weeks are always the hardest as you get used to a new routine, but the reason why you started this whole journey is waiting for you at the end of these first few weeks. Just give yourself time, don’t make any rushed decisions and everything will take its place. I promise fun times, crazy adventures and amazing friends will come your way!
This is the first article about living abroad in a series of four. Check back next week for Living Abroad: How to Handle Being Away From Friends and Family.
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