10 Things You Should Know Before Moving Abroad

If you told little, naive, high school me that I would end up leaving my longtime home for somewhere completely foreign to me, well, I think she'd just be downright amazed. Even now, sometimes I have to stop myself for a second and say "Hey, you did this crazy thing!"

I've been living abroad in Edinburgh for nearly two years now, and while I do get to go home for decent amounts of time like any college student, I do feel like I truly live here. It's such a wonderful thing that I've been able to have this incredible experience, and that my parents have always been fully supportive of it. But it takes more than just a positive attitude and encouraging parents to be able to live abroad.

I know that this coming year, many of my friends from home (and university) will be venturing out into uncharted territory to live abroad for a few months. And I'm sure a few of you reading out there might be thinking of moving abroad for even longer. So I thought I'd use my relative expertise to dish out some advice that might make that transition a little bit smoother.

Every country is different. So I'm not prepared to give out specific advice (unless you're moving to Scotland/the UK, in which case feel free to send me an email here!). Instead, I thought I'd be a bit more general about the overall experience of being abroad so that you know better what to expect when you make a leap of faith like I did two years ago.

It won't be easy // Make no mistake that your abroad experience won't always be like it is in the movies- or on your friends instagram feeds for that matter. Of course, you'll have those "pinch me" moments where the sun is shining, the landscape is perfect, and you'll feel like you could be the covergirl for a year abroad prospectus. But what people share online isn't necessarily real life. Moving abroad is a ginormous transition. You need to accept that the hard times will pass, and that you'll eventually find your groove.

But preparation will make it a bit easier // Do you research. Because if you don't, you might end up floundering. I know it's tempting to be that free-spirited Euro-gypsy who just goes whichever way the wind takes you, but you need to prepare properly. Figure out how finances will work, look into opening an international bank account, and get your visa sorted. Do the preparation, and those spontaneous times will follow.

The differences will be hard // Everyone says the US is just like the UK. That is, people who've never lived in the UK say that. I can tell you now that even I had a hard time adjusting to the differences- in language, in education, and in people. It will be frustrating, and sometimes you'll just want to revert back to what you know.   

But you'll learn to deal with them // The unfamiliar can be a wonderful thing. You'll learn how to adjust to a new language or even just learn a few slang terms. You'll gain a new perspective on international politics. You'll figure out how a different money system works, and won't have to take 10 minutes at the till counting up coins that still seem foreign to you.

You'll need support // You can't just cut your entire family and your closest friends out of your life because you're "finding yourself" in another country. In time, you'll find that you can and should lean on them when things get hard. You'll never get too dependent though, since they'll be thousands of miles away. But just hearing that voice on the end of the phone will perk you up when you're feeling down.

But you'll also meet wonderful people // Finding friendships abroad will open up the world to you. You'll find friends from all over the world who are figuring it out just like you. And even the ones who are local will be special to you, because they'll show you the ropes and serve as a guide through your time abroad. And whenever you need to travel, you'll realize you have a couch to crash on everywhere you go.

You will miss your home at times // This is inevitable. People who say they "never miss home" when they're far away are definitely playing it off. Or they just might be emotionless robots. You might not be crying into your pillow every night, but there will be times when you just wish you could be lying in the comfort of your childhood bed.   

But at other times you won't want to leave // Sometimes going home will make you realize how much you love being abroad. You'll have found a second home somewhere else that feels just as "right" as where you grew up. But consider yourself lucky- this just means that you have two places to go home to. And that is a lovely thing.

Something will go wrong // Big or small, something will turn you into a complete tailspin. And in this unfamiliar place, any feelings of confusion or sadness will be augmented. Without your family to rely on, things will be tougher than ever.

But it will make you stronger // Despite popular belief, living abroad doesn't make you a better person or even a completely different person that you were before. But it does make you stronger. You will learn so much by being in a different place. And by struggling with that learning curve and ultimately surmounting it, you'll gain the type of strength that only comes from facing the unfamiliar.

And I promise that it will all be worth it.

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