I have lived abroad since 2015. My first move was to Medellin, Colombia, and later to Paris, France. My two moves were very different, but equally exciting and scary. Through the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, both have offered a handful of lessons along the way. While every move, especially to a new host country, is a personal expat journey, I am here to share some advice I would give to my former self to ease my nerves and anxieties before a life change.
“You will create a beautiful community of friends abroad wherever you go, but your expat friends may leave.”
One of the biggest questions I had before I moved abroad was, “Will I be able to make friends?” The short answer is yes!
The communities have created when living abroad are some of the deepest friendships I have. However, because of the nature of expat life, it is common for people to leave unexpectedly. Life as an expat can be transient; they may deny visas, people’s plans change, and they leave.
This is something I wasn’t prepared for. The goodbyes, the let’s keep in touch, the who knows if I will see you again! Despite this, the lasting friendships that I have made far outweigh the heartache that these changes bring. I now remind myself that even as friends leave, new people will always enter my life, and that is one beauty of being an expat.
“Learning the local language will help you integrate into your new community.”
When I moved to Colombia, I already had a base level of Spanish to help me get around and essentially “survive.” Asking for directions, navigating a menu, checking out at the supermarket, and riding the public transportation were all made easier knowing the language. It also helped me integrate more into life in Medellin.
While it took several years to feel like my language skills were up to the challenge of making Colombian friends, I felt far more connected to living in Medellin speaking the language.
Since moving to France, I have started at essentially zero. It is humbling (and incredibly frustrating) to not be able to express myself. However, as my confidence grows and my language abilities build, I enjoy my life in Paris so much more.
Even though learning a language can be incredibly frustrating, challenging, and tiring, my best advice is, do it anyway!
“When you move to a second expat home, you might find yourself comparing or missing things from your old home.”
I lived happily in Medellin, Colombia, for five years. It was only after meeting my partner that leads me to move to Paris, France. Life in these two countries is incredibly different. There are positives and negatives in both places, but it surprised me to miss my home in Colombia for real.
I believe this is a normal part of the adaptation process. I remind myself that Colombia will always be there for me if, and when, I am ready to go back. But for now, I simply enjoy the present and learn as much as I can from this exciting opportunity.
Have you recently moved to a new country or are you preparing for a move abroad? What advice has helped you along the way? Let us know!
by: Erin Colton-Enberg