Has the thought of moving abroad ever crossed your mind? After participating in the Internship Programme, many of our students get the taste for working and living abroad and decide to take the leap and move somewhere new. But what is it like to build a life in another country? What questions and feelings tend to surface when you are out of your comfort zone?
Moving to London is the biggest and most life-changing decision I ever made and even though I have never looked back, there are a number of life lessons I have come to terms with over the years. Here are 6 things you need to know.
1. Your home country is not the centre of the universe
When you build a life in another country, you will soon realise that all those rules and mannerisms you thought were universal are in fact culturally specific to where you are from. Before I moved to London I had heard that the British buy rounds at the pub. Could people really be so generous that they bought four beers at a time even though they were only going to stay for one or two? I didn’t believe it until I saw it. The thought of something being different was more difficult to get my head around than the idea that most things we do are culturally specific. It is important to remember that the way things work at home is not necessarily better than the way people behave elsewhere, it is just different.
2. Seek friends outside of your comfort zone
When you first arrive somewhere, everything is new and overwhelming. Becoming friends with people in the same situation as you is easy and familiar - and by all means, don’t shun the other, as in my case, Swedes. After all it is fun to discuss cultural differences, politics or gossip with someone who understands where you are coming from and who can relate to your opinions in a different way than, say, a Brit or an Italian would. But make sure you seek out friends from other countries too, as well as the natives. You will learn more about the world - including the country you are living in - and you will find it easier to learn the language, culturally assimilate and build a home than if you are just hanging around with people who grew up in a similar environment.
3. Friends are the new family
Being in a new country means being far away from everyone you love. But you will soon find you have gained a new family; your friends. When I first moved to London I thought I would stay for six months to a year. It has now been almost nine years. When you are in transit-mode, spending time on building strong relationships can seem superfluous. You will be leaving soon anyway… right? Or maybe you won’t, maybe life takes turns you never could have imagined. Maybe you will need that new shoulder to cry on soon enough - when you didn’t get the job you wanted or the guy or girl you are dating suddenly give you the cold shoulder. Don’t be scared to take your friendships to the next level. Without your usual security network of family and childhood friends, life can get rather lonely. Be there for your new friends and they will be there for you. Even though you are planning on leaving in a year or so - or if they are (I won’t lie, it is heartbreaking when it happens) - the here and now is all that matters because you can never predict what the future holds.
4. Don't let the Internet replace real life
Once your friends and family are no longer around the corner, you will realise just how important they are (as well as the true value of Internet access). Back in 2008 when I first put my feet on London ground, people still used phone cards to call back home, a practice that was both time consuming and expensive. Skype, WhatsApp or FaceTime make it incredibly cheap and easy to stay in touch with the motherland. A friend from Brazil once said she wouldn’t know what to do if Skype didn’t exist and I am sure most emigrants would agree with her. At the same time, screen time with someone you love is not the same thing as seeing them face-to-face. You are more likely to graze the surface than talk about what is actually going on. If you don’t live too far away and can afford to travel back home once in a while, by all means, do it!
5. Time flies
Moving away to a different country borders on the unreal. When I was walking through the streets of Soho on my way to my first job, I felt like I was in a film. The sense of detachment made me unafraid and helped me get through the first turbulent months. It later dissipated and I slowly changed and adapted to my environment. What I didn’t expect was that the world I had left was also going to change, and fast. Time passes quickly no matter where you are, but when you only go back home a couple of times a year or so, it becomes clear just how fast it happens. There is nothing you can do about it, just go with the flow and try to not get too nostalgic.
6. What it means to have a dual identity
So what is home nowadays? I guess home is where I grew up and where my family is, but home is also Camden on a Saturday, walks on Hampstead Heath, lighting the gas on the stove in the morning. The Swedish culture seems alien to me in many ways. I mean, why do Swedes insist on splitting the bill? But in other ways, I will never be quite at home in the UK. I miss the forest and long summer days, my friends and family. But as confusing as this dual sense of identity can be, I’m happy it is a part of me. Because it enriches your life and gives you perspective. There is no experience quite like it.
ADC College organises Internship and Teacher Development Programmes in London and Dublin, eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.