What they don’t really tell you about living abroad, and what I learned from it

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Whether you study, work, or simply stay in a different country for an extended period of time, living abroad can be thrilling, but also terrifying at the same time. Quite a number of people will tell you that the experience can be energizing and eye-opening, but what they didn’t tell you about living abroad is that plenty of things can affect you and there are some things you need to consider before you go abroad. In this article, I would like to introduce some of the things that I learned from my experience living in Singapore.

1.  The media got it all wrong: it is not going to be a walk in the park

You might have seen it from the movies, TV, or from any of your social media platform, the image of “the world beyond” and “living abroad” has become so dramatized in the media today that it’s no longer relevant to the actual experience. Whenever I tell people that I live in Singapore, I generally get the impression of envy like; “Oh that’s great! You are lucky, you will get a better future there”, and so forth. That impression might be true to some extent since there might be plenty of opportunities that might come to you that you might not find in your home country.

But nothing worth having comes easy, and all those opportunities come with expenses.

When you are living abroad, you are no longer someone from A country, nor a citizen of B country. You are a mix of both. When it comes to starting living in a new environment, the first few weeks will be the hardest, and you will be tested and pushed to the limits. You must adapt to a new culture, a new language, a new living environment, and a new way of life. At first, your schedules will change drastically, your body will adapt differently, and sometimes you will fell a little bit disconnected from the people and the places and forced out of your regular routine. This will eventually lead to emotional distress or anxiety that people abroad face that is commonly known as homesickness, that can be manifested in many ways: constantly wanting to call family or friends, complaining and comparing your new environment to what it usually like in your home country, and even sometimes, you might feel that you want to reject and withdraw yourself from your new social circles.

However, if moving abroad were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?
 Living abroad is physically and mentally demanding. I rarely heard someone who has regretted moving abroad, but I know plenty who have regretted staying behind. Though it may sound hard, living abroad is a chance for you to hit that reset button for your life, be the person you want to be, grow to a stronger person as a whole, and at the end of the day, it will re-invent yourself to face any challenges in life.

2. No one will be there for you to take care of you

Unless you were born in a family where plenty of your relatives stay in different parts of the world to support you, which most of us don’t, living abroad can be a challenging phase to find out whether are you ready to live on your own and adapt to your newly adopted environment. The truth is, no one will care about you as much as your parents or your relatives do. People will come and go, and no one will be there to take care of you responsibly, especially in a foreign environment. You will feel lonely, and there will be tons of people with their own agendas and you really need to take care of yourself and be discipline.

However, as time goes by, it will get much easier. Living abroad can be hard, I remember my first trip to the local supermarket felt like an adventure itself, but fret not, there are some things that you can do to cope with the early stress of the loneliness of living abroad:

  •  Develop a consistent schedule
    Once you step that door, you are on your own. No one will able to bound you on your own and you are free to do what you desire. But in order for you to get a grip during hard times living abroad, you have to be disciplined, and one needs a very strong will power to do so. Start small, have a definitive end goal, and eliminate any distractions. If there is something that can’t keep you disciplined or focused, you have to be able to find it and move on.
  •  Talk to others about how you feel
    Don’t shy away from asking for help. If you are lucky enough, find one really good friend from your home country. Talking to someone new, who you can really trust with can make your life abroad easier. The world is not against you, talk to others about how you feel.
  •  Embrace the changes and face your fears
    Believe in yourself that the fear will pass, it always has and always will. Do things that frighten you, maybe if you are afraid to speak in a local language where you live in, try to take action and start building your skill set step by step. Only action itself will build courage, and that courage will help you embrace the changes and face your worries and fears of living abroad.

When in doubt, you must remember that right now there are millions of other brave souls like you taking their steps to explore the world, one new city at a time. It is hard to prevent any difficulties at the early stage of living abroad, and to some extent, it may seem impossible. However, it is important not to let your difficulties that you face hinder you from enjoying things that you will enjoy from living abroad.

3. Living abroad will change you

  •  You will learn more about yourself
    One thing that you really need to know if you want to go abroad is that living in a foreign country will change you. So far, studying abroad was one of the best decisions that I have ever made, and it has helped shaped and continues to shape who I am today. Not only that the immersion to different culture taught me different lesson about diversity, it has encouraged me to be independent, responsible, and most importantly, it teaches me how to appreciate the people and the world around me. Adapting to a different culture with different set rules, learning the differences and appreciating everyone and everything around you will stimulate your understanding of who you really are as well as a person. It encourages independence and responsibility. It is up to you to decide who you are going to be, what kind of person that you will become, and eventually what path that you choose to fulfill this life. You will face many challenges and you will know parts of you that you never knew existed and you will be amazed at what you have become.
  •  Your world became a whole lot bigger
    Your world grew in size the moment you set foot abroad. You will no longer be bounded by the boundaries of your former life, and you will start seeing things in a broader perspective. Maybe you will think that your former life is better, or maybe the other way around. But for better or for worse, the fruitful experiences of living abroad will open up your mind and develop a sense of a better understanding of how the world works and how to adapt and react accordingly.

All in all, living abroad is challenging, yet fulfilling experience. These are some of the things that I have learned so far and there is a lot more to learn. No one will be able to really tell you things that they have experienced abroad, and these experiences can only be meaningful if you see it by yourself. So are you up for the challenge?




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Born and Raised in Surakarta, Ignatius is currently pursuing an Engineering degree at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore. Prior to joining Indonesia Mengglobal, Ignatius was a former public relations officer at PINTU (Pelajar Indonesia NTU) and is currently a Business and Corporate Executive at PPIS (Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Singapura). Ignatius is a friendly, supportive and inquisitive person, and he always eager to connect with others. Feel free to find him at his Quora, LinkedIn, and Facebook pages at the description below or drop an email to ignatiusadityah@gmail.com.
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