Moving abroad is a wonderful experience. There is something exhilarating about packing up your life and starting a new journey in a place that’s different from where you grew up. Whether you’re looking for a fresh start or an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, living abroad can provide immense opportunities for growth.
The Story of How I moved Abroad
If I had to pinpoint a time where my fascination with different cultures began, it would be when I was in the first grade. My teacher had invited the parents of one of my classmates to talk to our class about Nigerian culture. They arrived wearing traditional garments that were absolutely beautiful! They talked to us about traditional Nigerian food and taught a couple of dances. I was shook! I loved every minute of it. From that point forward, I found myself gravitating toward people who had different cultural backgrounds than my own.
Fast forward to 2015. I had been living in Los Angeles for nearly three years and was beginning to grow tired of it. In April of that year, I embarked on my first international solo trip. I visited Iceland, Stockholm and Paris. I was mesmerized by the beauty of all three destinations and felt empowered by the entire experience. I knew that travel needed to be a major part of my life. It was in Paris where I decided that I wanted to start working toward making a move abroad. I didn’t want to have to save all of my vacation days for one trip every year just to experience Europe on the surface level. As soon as I returned to LA, I dedicated most of my free time to researching how I could make the move happen.
I visited Berlin, where I currently reside, for the first time in November 2016. It was chilly and rainy the entire time I was there but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with the city. There was something about the energy and openness that drew me in. I knew that it was the place for me. Nearly ten months later, I had a one-way ticket to start my new life.
My life abroad hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve dealt with setbacks including being fired from a job and mourning the death of my father from thousands of miles away. I’m thankful that I’ve always had a tribe of strong women (most of whom I met through GGI) to support me whenever times got tough. There have definitely been periods when I’ve thought about giving up and going back to the US. Whenever my mind goes down that road, I remind myself of why I did this in the first place and how far I’ve come. Berlin is the city where I came into my own and began to realize my power. It may not be my forever home but for now it’s the place that makes my heart sing.
Now that I’ve shared an abbreviated version of my moving abroad story, let’s talk about some do’s and don’ts!
- Research – Planning a move abroad is not as seamless as Emily In Paris made it look. It requires a great deal of research and planning. If you already have a city in mind where you’d like to go, take the time to learn about the current job market, housing availability, and the visa application process (if necessary). Doing your research and asking questions in the beginning could save you from some major headaches down the road.
- Have a plan – Okay, so you don’t need to have a detailed day-to-day itinerary, but it’s important to think about what your life abroad could potentially look like and how you plan to support yourself. Ask, “Will I be able to find work in my chosen field?” If not, are you open to possibly going down a new career path? It’s also worthwhile to think about how a move to a new country will align with your larger life goals. If you haven’t taken the time to address past trauma or other issues, making a big move isn’t going to make them go away or make you happier. You don’t necessarily have to have all of the answers right away, but it’s important to start thinking about these topics as you begin your journey.
- Come with an open mind – One of the reasons you’re planning a move abroad is so you can immerse yourself in new experiences, right? It’s so much easier to soak up all of the goodness that a new city provides when your mind is open to all of the possibilities.
- Compare your adopted home to your birth country – When you’re feeling frustrated, it can be easy to fall into this way of thinking. When I first arrived in Germany and saw how much literal paperwork it takes to get anything done, I was floored. For a country that claims to be efficient, they sure do like doing things the old school way! I found myself being annoyed and longing for the digital processes that are in place in the US. However, if you’re constantly comparing your new home to your birth country, you’ll be blinding yourself to all of the great things that exist in spite of the challenges.
- Limit your circle – You would be doing yourself a major disservice if you relocated to a new country and surrounded yourself with only people from the same place as you. The best part of building a life abroad is meeting people from all over the world! Interacting with people from different backgrounds and walks of life is one of the best ways to learn, grow, and expand your mind. I’m proud to say that my current circle of friends includes women from Australia, Germany, Pakistan, and more!
- Be afraid to admit if things aren’t working out – When you decide to move abroad, you’re taking a huge leap of faith. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out. Maybe you’ve figured out that you don’t like a city as much as you thought you did. Or, maybe you lose a job or have some other traumatic experience that sours your view of where you’re at. Whatever the reason, there’s no shame in admitting that things aren’t working out and pressing the reset button. Be proud that you decided to be brave and try something new! Despite things not going as planned, you were still able to experience some growth and create memories that will last a lifetime.
In my opinion, the most important part of planning a move abroad is seeking out a community of like-minded individuals. When you’re ready to plan your next adventure, be sure to check out our map and see if there’s a community near where you’re headed. GGI has over 200 communities worldwide who are ready to welcome and support you!
By Laurel Wright
I am a Frontend Developer currently working and playing in Berlin. Travel and exploring the world are essential to my being. When I’m not writing code, you can find me cooking in the kitchen or curled up with a good book.