A little over two months ago, I made the huge move to Colombia. I had barely any money in the bank after taking care of my necessities, I hardly knew anyone, oh, and I did not speak Spanish. To all of you “planners” out there, who are shaking your heads at my apparent “Lack of Plans,” I can assure you, my move was as well planned and thought out as I could make it. However, there were certain things that just really could not be helped, and I had to just roll with the punches on those things.
Starting out in a new country has been both easier and harder than I expected. I fell, almost seamlessly, into my roll at my new job. Other opportunities have already begun to fall into my lap, in the short time that I have been here. I get along well with my new colleagues, and I started making new friends pretty much as soon as my plane landed in Colombia.
I had roommates lined up before I left home, whom I had only met one time each before moving here. I barely knew anything about them, only that my best friends who already lived in Colombia promised me that they were good people. Like anyone, I had apprehensions about living with people I barely knew, but they have been incredible! I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have two great women to live with.
Overall, the country is beautiful, the people that I have met have been friendly and welcoming, and I have learned more spanish in two months than I did in two years of spanish classes in High School.
So far, my experience here has been amazing!
But, it has also had it’s hangups. A couple of which have almost stopped me cold in my tracks, after being here for two months. I was warned about them, but I wasn’t expecting these things to impact me with the strength in which they did.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving to a foreign country. It looks glamorous, exciting, and let’s be honest… you would want to do it, partly because you’d want people back home to see how “Cool” you are.
There are a lot of articles out there about why moving abroad is a GREAT idea, but when I was doing all of my research, getting ready to make my big move, I didn’t really see too many articles about the negative side effects of moving your entire life to a foreign country.
So here is my list of the Five Things People Don’t Tell You About Moving Abroad.
1. Being “broke” in a foreign country is a whole new ballgame.
There have been a couple of times where I have run low on money, because I am still getting used to the new form of currency that I use. The only way to get to know new surroundings, is to go exploring. Not having a lot of money, hinders the ability to go exploring, especially when friends want to hang out, or go to a bordering town that I haven’t been to yet.
On the flip side, luckily, in the city that I live in, everything is relatively close, and if I do want to go exploring, I have the ability to walk places. Which seemed a little daunting to this Floridian girl, because now I live in the middle of the mountains. However, I’m grateful for the exercise, because my job has me sitting most of the day, so walking helps keep me in shape and strengthens my legs.
Being broke, or being on a tight budget in a foreign country can feel very restricting at time, whereas, when you are surrounded by the familiar, you can easily make do, when money is tight.
2. You may or may not get your normal creature comforts.
If there is that ONE thing that you are a total brand snob with, the country you choose to live in, may not have that particuluar brand, or it may be far more expensive than what you are used to paying. My coworker that arrived here the day before I did, who is also from the States, has a couple of brands that he LOVES, but they are more expensive here. In his case, he has chosen to pay the higher cost, but I know others who have had to find other brands that work for them.
The internet may not be as good as you are used to, wherever you move. One of the hardest things for me, here in Colombia is wifi. Some places have great wifi, but other places, not so much. Until recently, our internet at home would be great during the middle of the day but, at night, it was a nightmare trying to stream a TV show or movie, or even just to play on my phone before going to sleep. Being someone who loves to talk to my family, the wifi cutting out at night was a huge frustration, because there are some nights, where I’ve had a long day, or miss home, and all I want is to talk to my family.
3. Homesickness is real.
Okay, so this one, I knew was going to happen.
No matter if you are family person, or you’re not, it is hard to be away from everyone you know and love, even if you are used to being away from your family.
I am a big family person. I may be twenty-five years old, and have lived away from my family for a season, and had my other siblings move out of the house, and to other states, but I have never been THIS far from my family, and for this long. I always had at least a couple of my sisters still living in the same city as me, and with the exception of a year, I lived with my mom up until the moment that I left for Colombia.
Our family group chat is a Lifeline for me. It makes me feel connected to my family, even though we are on two separate continents. But even that, sometimes, isn’t enough, and I still deal with the very real, and very strong emotions of not being able to see my family whenever I want.
My coworker that moved down here the day before I did, who just spent most of the last four years away from his family while he was off at school, has said that being in a different country is much different than living several hours away from his family. Whatever you think about homesickness, multiply it, and then multiply it again, and then MAYBE you’ll be prepared for when it hits.
4. There are times where you just feel incredibly lonely.
Being in a country where you don’t know anyone, and you are still getting to know the language can be very lonely, even if you are introverted, and are a pretty solitary person.
I can be surrounded by a hundred people, and still feel the weight of loneliness. Not only am I the new gringa, I also am not fluent in the language yet. It is hard enough to get to know people, and it is even harder to do, when you cannot communicate with people effectively yet. I like to talk to people, and when I can’t easily do so, loneliness settles in pretty quickly.
5. Culture Shock is a thing, and it is Legit.
This one REALLY took me by surprise.
You will experience culture shock. If you have lived in another country before, like I have, each culture still has their own customs and social expectations, and they take some time to get used to.
I had visited Colombia twice before moving here. I have two best friends that live here, and I thought that whatever came up, it wouldn’t be so bad because I have great friends to lean on.
I was wrong.
One of my best friends that lives here, is from the States also, but he has lived in Colombia for the last four years. He warned me about different things that would happen when I lived here. I listened to his warnings, but still in the back of my brain, I didn’t think it would be too bad.
On my “two-month-aversary” being in Colombia, I was already dealing with full-force homesickness. I also knew that I had reached some level of Culture Shock, but it didn’t seem like anything to worry about. I made a small comment to one of my friends, and they responded with how things work here in Colombia, especially for the company I work for. I barely remember what it was, because looking back it was the silliest thing to get upset over. But in that moment, it triggered every emotion in my body.
I was officially in Culture Shock.
Suddenly, in that moment, I hated Spanish. I hated rice. I didn’t want to be around Colombians. I hated how people here don’t have a sense of personal space. And I wanted to be anywhere else in the world, as long as I was not here. I wanted to be at the beach, I wanted to walk down the street, in the 95 degree, humidity ridden, blinding sunshine of South Florida.
But most of all, I wanted to be home. I wanted to be sitting in the living room of my mom’s house talking to my sisters. I wanted to take a nice long nap on my mom’s couch. I wanted my cat that I had to leave at home in Florida, while I was here. And honestly, the only thing I wanted in the world in that moment, was to hug my mother.
As I sit here and write this, that was about a week ago. I feel like I have literally felt every single emotion on the emotional spectrum since then. I have had good moments, and I have had sad moments. I have had moments of total depression, where I want nothing to do with anything, except to curl up on my bed and hide under the covers. I have felt excited, I have felt angry. Any emotion that you can think of, I have probably felt it this week.
Which brings me to my last point. I know this article is the “five” things people don’t tell you, but there is a sixth point, that is probably the most important.
6. No matter what you do, KEEP GOING!
You will have good days, you will have productive days where you feel like you are on top of the world! And you will also have bad days. You are going to have hard days, that suck. You are going to have emotional days, and that’s okay.
Remember that it is okay to feel and be emotional. It is okay to miss your family, even if you have lived away from them for a long time already. It is okay to have bad days, and it is okay to have days where you want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.
But also remember to KEEP GOING!
You can’t stay hidden from the world forever, you have to join the world again eventually. And you can’t avoid bad days. You have to pick yourself back up and push through.
Someone told me one time, that you decide who you want to be when you are strong, that way when you have a moment of weakness, you can cling to the decision that you made when you were strong.
I decided a long time ago, that I would be a woman of my word, and that I would not be a quitter. Last week, someone told me that if I missed home so much, I should just quit and move back home. They were completely serious. They believed that just because I had one hard, bad, emotional day, that meant that I was not where I was supposed to be (even though I know for a fact that I am exactly where I need to be right now), and I needed to quit.
If there is ANYTHING that is worth having, it will not be easily attained. The greatest prizes are kept at the end of the hardest journeys. The biggest reward is given to those who are willing to go the distance and do what it takes to reach the goal.
Just because you have a hard day, or life gets a little too emotional for a week, do NOT give up. Keep going. What you gain by sticking it out is FAR greater than what you gain by quitting.
No matter the emotion you feel, no matter what anyone else says, if you KNOW in your heart that you are supposed to be in a foreign country for a season, then no matter what, you push through.
You KEEP GOING!!