You’ve packed your suitcase, you’ve said goodbye to your loved ones and you’re at the airport; “What am I doing?” you ask yourself “Have I made a mistake?”
Moving abroad, be it temporarily or not, is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. If you’re an expat like me, the thought of stepping off the plane in a country where you don’t know anyone is a daunting prospect. Trent Hand already covered 3 Brilliant Things to Do Before Moving Overseas, so I thought I would discuss 7 ways you can mentally prepare yourself before you step into the unknown.
1. Join an Online Social Group
Meetup is one of the best websites for meeting new people with a common interest. Sign up and search for interest groups in your new city, or even better, if there isn’t one already, create one. Facebook is also very useful; I’m an au pair and I made all of my new friends through the city’s au pair group.
2. Schedule a Regular Time to Catch Up With Loved Ones
It’s easy to miss your loved ones when you have conflicting schedules; especially romantic partners. Schedule a time every week, regardless of the time zone and/or the circumstances and speak to each other on Skype (it’s free to download if you don’t already have it).
If you make this a regular habit, it will comfort you when you start to miss them too much because you always know you’re going to catch each other online. Sundays are often the best time for this.
Talk about what you both have been doing, how much you miss one another. and what you’re going to do when you both see each other.
3. Do What You’ve Always Wanted to Do
As much as we adore our loved ones, sometimes we get complacent and hold ourselves back from what we really want to do, such as working on a business plan when you really want to go and watch the game with your friend.
However, being alone can sometimes give us the kick in the ass that we needed. Now that you have a lot more free time and fewer distractions, you can pursue a hobby you’ve always wanted to do. Being alone also gives you the opportunity to meet new, like-minded people.
4. Learn to Embrace New Challenges
Many people see challenges as negative, but they can be very fulfilling to overcome, and living abroad is no exception. This will push you to your very limits, but know that by the end of it, you will be a better-rounded person for it—not many people can say they’ve come out the other side, so don’t be one of them.
5. Write a Note to Yourself to Read When You Feel Most Challenged
There are going to be times when you’ll want to throw in the towel and quit; it’s all too common to let your emotions affect your rationality. Don’t let that happen—instead, write yourself a note (I have mine on my iPhone notes) and look at it whenever you feel most dis-empowered. It was written by your best self, to you. The irony is that you may never even need it; I wrote one to myself and never ended up looking at it, so I deleted it.
6. Seek Comfort in Something You Can Always Have With You
We seldom root our comfort in the simplest of pleasures like a cup of coffee, a picture in your wallet, a favourite album / book / movie, but when you’re abroad, you won’t have your home to comfort you when you have a bad day. This is what people mean when they say they’re homesick: they miss what their home provides them—comfort.
Always have your favourite personal belonging at hand to look at whenever you feel sad. I have my favourite albums on my laptop and whenever I feel homesick, I listen to them because it takes me back to a happy place, regardless of where I am in the world.
7. Celebrate Your Successes
Celebrate every success you have, regardless of how small you think it is. You don’t always have to share it with someone, because it’s yours. Write it down in a journal and reflect back on it when you feel you can’t move forward. Maybe you were really anxious about meeting your new co-workers, but they all greeted you with open arms. Build up this forward momentum of little successes and soon you’ll be on your way to acclimatizing to your new home.