Photo by Ryan McGuire

Why Living Abroad is Scary

Throughout my stay in New Zealand, I’ve made a couple of friends who, like me, decided to move here to try something new. And, whenever we talk about how they got started here, they always say the same thing: the first year will always be the hardest.

This would seem pretty obvious for most. I mean, everybody knows that whenever you’re going to be living in a new place, you’re going to need to meet new people, make new friends, or maybe find a new job. These things can seem a bit scary at first. But, as I went through the whole process of settling in, I realised that these things are really just obstacles you need to go through rather than actual fears you need to conquer.

Settling in just takes time. The really scary part is realising, bit by bit, who you really are with each day you spend living abroad.

When I stepped out of the plane and unpacked my suitcase, I had no idea how much of my past “Filipino self” I would be stripping away. But, as the first few weeks passed by, the true extent of how alone I would become more and more apparent.

I gradually realised that getting used to living abroad by myself wasn’t simply a case of accepting that I would be spending more time alone. It was more about coming to terms with the reality that I wouldn’t be able to rely on the things I used to depend on when I was still living in the Philippines.

It’s the process of learning how to do every single thing by yourself that truly breaks you down. You begin to realise all the things you don’t have, all the flaws you thought you didn’t have, and how deep the flaws you knew about truly go. From the events you go to, the chores that you do, to the commutes that you take, and the nights that you spend awake — everything that you do will be done by your rawest self from the moment you set foot abroad.

Photo by Ryan McGuire

This constant barrage of unpleasant realisations is the main reason why most people begin sinking into depression within the first few months of living abroad. And, not knowing if you’re strong enough to overcome these realisations is the really scary part.

But, it is also through this process that you begin to realise strengths that you didn’t know you had, and the true extent of the strengths that you do know about. As you learn more and more about your strengths, you also begin to realise that things aren’t really as bad as they seem to be. It is at this point that fulfilment begins to trickle down on your daily routine.

These sparks of fulfilment are what will sustain you as you trudge onwards and try to figure out what to do with your life. There will still be days where you just end up being miserable and yearn for the things that you had. But, in the end, these days are just a part of all the wonderful things and possibilities that come with living abroad.

Coming to terms with your true self is what living abroad is all about. And, as long as you are in this constant process of self-discovery, you know that you are on the right track.