Why I was scared to go abroad and why I did it anyway
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”
This week, a good friend reminded me how true the above quote really is. She is living in New Zealand and we met 10 years ago on my first day at Hamilton Girls High School. Now she is planning to move to London and is going through many of the same feelings I went through in 2005.
In a recent email, she spoke of the 6 stages of expectation you go through:
And I can definitely relate to those. At first you’re full of excitement because you’ve finally booked you ticket, or been accepted to whatever program you applied for.
Then you notice all the things that you are going to miss while you’re away, like weddings and births (when you’re more like my age), Christmases or school and uni events.
Then comes the doubt: Do I really need that semester abroad? Is Europe/ Australia/ America really all that’s cracked up to be? Winter isn’t really all that cold, right?
And while you’re still struggling through phase two and three, you need to start organizing all those things that make moving abroad or travelling for a long time such a pain in the ass. Which travel insurance should I use? Which documents do I need for my visa? Where should I stay the first night there? All the things that are boring yet important.
Closer to your departure date, when everything is organized and you’ve printed all the safety copies of passports and visas, that your parents made you do, you start to feel excitement again and think about all the awesome things that you’re going to do once you’re there.
And then, possibly on the day of your flight or on the days leading up to it, you have to say goodbye to all the people you love. Those goodbyes will hurt like hell and they will make you not want to leave. But that’s okay because those people love you to and they want you to have that amazing experience you are about to have. And let me tell you, the goodbyes at the end of your time abroad will hurt just as much and in a twisted way, that’s something to look forward to.
Before I went to live abroad for the first time, I felt exactly like this. I was 16 and was about to head to New Zealand, to live with a family and attend school there. I had wanted and planned this for years but as the time of my flight drew nearer, I was beginning to feel afraid.
On the day of my actual flight, the 7. July 2005, I felt sick with fear. Not only because I was about to leave my family for a year but because terrorists had bombed the Tube in London that day and there was no telling whether that would remain the only target.
Once I had boarded my flight and reached my first destination, however, the only thing that remained of my fear, was sheer excitement.
Once I got to New Zealand, it wasn’t always easy and smooth sailing. I felt alone at first and like I had been thrown into the deep end of a pool and told to swim. My host “family” wanted me to be someone and something else and, had it not been for a lot of hard work by my friends at home, I would have been back in Germany in November.
But I learnt to fight for myself and, by the end of November, I was allowed to change host families and was lucky enough to meet the most supportive, caring and loving people I had ever met. And that’s when my time in New Zealand really began.
And now, ten years on, I wouldn’t want to miss a single day of my time in New Zealand because if I hadn’t gone through those dark days to get to the light, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. New Zealand feels like a second home and a part of me will always live there.
So if you’re thinking about taking the step to live abroad, I say: DO IT!! Through all the stages of expectation and the tough days that might await you at first, going abroad is always worth it. When you’re afraid: talk about it, set yourself small steps to keep your anxiety at bay and plan things for the first couple of days after your arrival, so that you have something to look forward to. Going abroad is scary and no one who has ever done it, is going to deny that (even if it fades away in retrospect), but it is definitely worth it. So just take the jump, you won’t regret it.
Have you ever lived abroad? How did you feel before you left?