It might seem like a really heavy topic, but it actually is a part of many people’s experience abroad. Experiencing loneliness and alienation is tough, but it can be dealt with. Here is some ideas.
When it comes to going abroad, it is probably much easier to go on a student exchange, especially if it’s with a bunch of friends for only a couple of months than to make a decision of moving your whole life abroad once you already lead a life here. I don’t want to underestimate the value of student exchanges here, don’t get me wrong, I just want to point out the difference between the environments in these two situations and focus on a permanent move. Leaving everything you are used to, everything that you know, the people you love, and moving abroad for good without an end date… it can be quite an overwhelming experience. No matter how many good reasons you have to move, no matter how well you understand the country you’re moving to and no matter how many people you know there – it can be a tough decision to make. And you probably will experience the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness at some point, together with I wanna go hooooome syndrome.
Once you’ve moved however – there is no easy instant way back. So what if you miss your old apartment, if you miss the friends you left back home, if you miss the cashier who was always smiling to you in your local grocery shop, what if you miss knowing the area around you well, what if you don’t yet know what to do with your free time now, what if you don’t meet anyone here, what if…?? First of all – take a deep breath and stop this flow of thoughts. Of course you don’t know many things about the place you moved to. YET.
Here is a couple of things you can do to make the transition easier.
Give yourself time to explore this new place
Walk around the area near where you live, get to know local customs, local restaurants, talk to people you meet. Enjoy the novelty! After all, that’s one of the things that brought you here, right?
Create new routines
Once you’ve walked around and you know what you liked – start building up new routines. Find “your” grocery shop, find “your” hairdresser, find “your” coffee shop. This will help you settle in the new place and create a safe environment. Thanks to that you will be able to focus on the bigger picture and finally appreciate the actual reasons of why you have moved abroad.
Stay in touch with your friends and family
Today’s world makes it so much easier for us to stay in touch with the people we love, whether they are 50 km or 2000 km away from us. Use the messengers, video chats, phones to connect with the ones you love. Most probably they are worried about you, they wish you all the best in the new place and they want to know how you’re doing.
If you have some friends in the city you’ve moved in to make sure to get in touch with them as well. It can be a great way to catch up again on a more day to day basis now that you live in one place. Also, they may be of great help in understanding the basic stuff about living in a new country (more about that in one of the previous posts)
Engage in new activities
If you’re moving for a short period of time, like a student exchange, it’s probably not that important cause you have a limited time to do all the sightseeing and experience the new place. If you are planning on staying abroad permanently however, it is important to build your new routines. Part of these routines is your hobby. Make sure to find time to explore the options of continuing your hobby, ideally with some other people. This will especially be of help if you don’t know many people yet and want to meet someone alike. Plus, doing something you like gives you a positive kick of endorphins!
Another idea is to get engaged in some web communities to find events that would interest you. A great way to go out, have some fun, and potentially meet some new friends. I know it might be more challenging if you are an introvert but at least give it a try 🙂 Here is a couple of websites apart from Facebook that I have been using to find events that are of interest for me:
Internations – I would recommend Internations as it is a worldwide network of people and functions in many countries. Most of the events in London however are just regular get-togethers and parties, which is cool at the beginning, but requires a lot of energy to find people with whom you really share some interests. I kind of got the impression that there were a lot of people joining the network to hook up… As I wasn’t looking for this kind of interactions I stopped engaging in this network
Meetup – Here is where Meetup comes in handy. It functions worldwide as well, but has a bigger selection of meetings organized by people interested in similar things. Just go to the website, type in the things that are of interest for you and see if there are any groups that already organize some events. If not – create one! 🙂
Mammoth Language Exchange – I’d like to mention one specific London group that is a great way to a) meet new people and b) practice your language skills – Mammoth Language Exchange. A really cool and free initiative. I’m not sure where in the world groups like this function, but try to look for something similar in the country you’re going to. Again, if it’s not yet there – be proactive and start one like this! 🙂
TransitionsAbroad website – This link lists a couple of expatriate website from all over the world. I also found it useful while doing my research before moving abroad.
If you know any other sites that are worth mentioning and with which you have had some positive experiences – let me know and we can add them to that list!
There is lots of challenges when moving abroad, but I think it’s worth it if you really want it. Don’t be put off by your fears!!!