Wednesday, August 2, 2017

10 Things to Know Before Moving Abroad


For those of you who haven't figured it out -  I'm not Irish. Though most of my blog revolves around Ireland, I'm actually Californian. I first moved to Dublin in 2013 to get my Master's Degree and I've lived here on and off ever since. When I moved to Ireland I did it entirely solo - I did not move with a friend, I knew approximately zero people who lived in Ireland, and I have no Irish heritage. I had been to Dublin before so I had the advantage of knowing the city a little, but other than that it was an independant endeavor. So naturally, I get asked about moving abroad a LOT. Not just online, but in my personal life. I hear a lot of "Wow good for you I could never do that!" "But don't you miss home?" and of course the inevitable "WHY would you want to leave California?" Before I had actually moved, statements and questions like those made me feel SO nervous and ill-prepared and I would second guess my decision on a daily basis. So if you are thinking of moving abroad, I've rounded up 10 things that I think you need to consider before taking the plunge that will hopefully get you mentally prepared!




1) It's hard
I'm aware that this is a vague piece of knowledge, but truly there's no better word to encompass it. When I first decided to move abroad, I had NO idea what I was signing myself up for. Sorting out a visa, transferring my money, opening a new bank account, finding a place to live, getting a new phone number, figuring out public transport (or even buying a new car!) - that's just the beginning. Then you have to go out and make new friends (this was the hardest part for my introverted ass) perfect the local language (or in my case, slang - dear god the slang) and on top of being completely exhausted from all of that + unpacking, you go through a little emotional rollercoaster where you're dealing with stress and potentially culture shock or homesickness. You NEED to go into it prepared for battle and then (hopefully) find yourself wearing too much armor.

2) It's expensive
My student visa alone was $400. Not to mention my flight, moving expenses, rent downpayment, and the fact that most countries make you have a certain amount of money in your account (after all of the initial expenses) in order to obtain a visa. For Ireland, it's the equivalent of  $4500. So just make sure you are financially sorted and know the minimum bank balance for the country you're moving to!

3) You can get very, very lonely
Now obviously this won't happen to everyone, especially if you're lucky enough to be moving with a partner/friend or have family/friends in the country you're moving to. But for those of us who did not have those benefits, be prepared to be a lone wolf. For some people you'll only feel that way for a short amount of time (I have a friend who found a solid group of friends within two weeks!) but for others it will take much longer - it took me around 4 months before I started actively going out with new friends  (but I might be a bit of an extreme case as I'm shy AND have an exceptional ability to be alone for long periods of time). Everyone goes at their own pace, and nothing should make you feel bad about that - but definitely emotionally prepare yourself for some inevitable bouts of loneliness.

4) You will get lost (a lot) 
I honesty can't imagine moving abroad pre-Google maps. I would have spontaneously combusted. Because regardless of how prepared you are or how fast your internet is, you will find yourself thinking "Where the eff am I" "Where the eff is this place" "What the eff is the name of this street" and you'll also think "Wow I gave myself 45 minutes to get to x and it only took me 15" (or, sadly, the opposite way around). Patience is a truly a virtue - one that you will become very familiar with.


5) Grocery shopping can be a frustrating experience
I live in an English speaking country and I STILL - TO THIS DAY - have the occasional issue. First it's figuring out WHERE to buy things - what's close to me? What's cheap? What has the best quality produce? Where can I pick up laundry soap AND chicken? But even once you've figured that out, you quickly realize things are often not called what you would call them at home. Irish examples: "Zucchini" v "Courgette" "Baking Soda" v "Bread Soda", etc. Sometimes the pronunciation is different and the dude stocking the shelves has absolutely no idea what you're trying to ask for (ie - aluminum foil is pronounced AH-LOO-MIN-IUM over here, WHAT?) Sometimes the pronunciation IS the same but the product isn't (ie - Irish bacon is NOT American bacon). Sometimes the item you're trying to find simply does NOT exist in that country (RIP artichokes, chocolate chips, boxed mac & cheese, and any sort of alternative to La Croix). And as I mentioned, I live in an English speaking country - I can only imagine it's worse for drastically different languages/cultures.


6) There will be at least one moment where you are convinced you need to give it all up and move home
One day looong ago, when I was about 2-3 weeks into my Master's Degree, I had the most disastrous day. It was pouring rain, I forgot to bring an umbrella. I was running late for school. When I did get to school I found out there was a class event that I hadn't been invited to and that made me sad because I had no friends. After class I went home, only to (in the pouring rain, let me remind you) have a truck drive by me on the sidewalk and soak me head to toe in dirty gutter water in front of EVERYONE (legit straight out of a movie). When I got home, I tried to open my apartment door only to find my lock was broken and I couldn't get in. So I was stuck outside, in the pouring rain, covered in gutter water, with lots of homework to do and a dying cell phone, for SIX FRICKIN' HOURS while I waited for a locksmith. As you can imagine, I almost called it quits right there and then. I'm not saying anything even remotely close to that will happen to you (pretty sure I was paying off a very intense karmic debt) but there will almost certainly be a time where you just want to pack up and run home to hug your parents because everything feels like it's too much to handle. Do NOT give in. This is a vital turning point in your journey!

7) Your mental capacity will grow exponentially
This one is kind of hard to explain, but what I'm trying to get at is how much moving abroad opens your eyes. I honestly think the knowledge and experience you gain is unparalleled, it's something that anyone who hasn't lived abroad will never be able to truly understand. The world seems smaller and bigger at the same time, the fear of foreign places that's been instilled in you from the media disappears, and your confidence broadens quite a bit. It's one of those things that gives you the mentality of "if I can do this, I can do anything" - you feel limitless!

8) You will start to deeply appreciate your home country 
Having lived in America my entire life leading up to my move to Dublin, all I dreamed about was living somewhere far away where there were castles, magical green hills, and quaint storybook towns. And don't get me wrong, I LOVE Ireland. It's absolutely stunning and it has a big chunk of my heart - but living here has made me miss America (specifically, California) so, so much. Despite it's massive political and structural flaws, it's a truly spectacular place - NOT something I ever would have said 4 years ago. Once you take a step back and see your country from an outsiders perspective, you start to see the small details, conveniences, & customs that you never truly appreciated.

9) You realize that we're not that different at all
Moving abroad opens you up to an entire new pool of people from all around the world. Despite differences in customs, manners, languages, appearances and political mindset - everyone just wants to be accepted, loved, and happy. They want to listen to music, meet friends, eat, travel, have sex - all of the basic human needs. When it's written out it sounds like a concept that's not too hard to grasp, but I think this is something you will understand on a deeper level once you've truly immersed yourself in a different culture.

10) It will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself
I'm terribly sorry if I scared you by being too bold about the issues you will have to face and the changes that are going to happen, but I didn't want to beat around the bush. Everyone's experience getting themselves sorted during their move is going to be different. Judging from experience, some people had it WAY easier than me and some people had it much, much harder. But in the end, despite all of the stress and the time and the money - it's one of the best investments you will ever make in your life. The experience you gain cannot be taught in a classroom or read about in an article. The independence, knowledge, and personal growth you gain is worth more than any material possession.  Once the first few months are over and you're settled and into a good rhythm, the passion and zest you feel for life will be full force. So if you're considering it - do it. Let this be the sign you need that you should make the move. When I was debating whether or not to take the plunge, I had a friend tell me "You have your whole life to live in America, you're an American citizen. You can always come back. But your chance to live in Ireland will not not." I realize this doesn't apply to everyone, but it was a sentiment that truly changed my perspective. If you are privileged enough to have the physical and mental ability, funds, and lack of political restrictions to move abroad, study abroad, or even just spend a few months abroad, I think it's devastating not to take the opportunity.   


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