What Living Abroad Has Taught Me

July 4, 2017

In December 2014 I made the bold decision to move from my home town of Melbourne, Australia, all the way to London. Mind you, I'd never been to the UK or Europe and I only knew one person here - Phil, my future fiance. It's a bit of a love story, I met my partner in Australia in 2012, he moved over to London and we kept in contact for a couple of years. He visited me a few times back in Australia and in 2014 I visited him in London over Christmas.

 

We spent a few weeks together travelling across the UK countryside, Paris and Dubai, and by the end of our holiday we knew one of us had to make the big move. So I took the plunge and within two weeks I quit my job, got myself a visa and booked a flight. My family and friends were fairly shocked to hear the news, I was even struggling to process what was happening! I had never lived out of home, I hadn't been away for more than one month, nor had I lived with anyone other than my family. On top of this, I had been dealing with anxiety issues for over a year at this point, so the thought of uprooting my life and throwing away my safety net was sending my anxiety levels through the roof. But I knew it had to be done, it was my time to be bold and put myself completely out of my comfort zone. I had a theory that forcing myself to deal with such a huge shake up would ultimately help me overcome anxiety.

 

I spent my last few days in Melbourne with my family and friends and before I knew it, I was at the airport with my mum. If I'm honest I am a massive mummy's girl, I love hanging out with her and my dad and even though I'm on the other side of the world I still call them every day (sometimes twice a day). So saying goodbye to them was extremely difficult for me, especially not knowing when I would be back or when I would see them next. I'm very close with my grandparents as well, I felt so guilty for leaving them, they're both in their old age and I felt like I should be spending as much time with them as I can. But unfortunately, starting a new life also meant I would be leaving things behind. So as you could imagine, the plane ride was a sobby, wet, mess. I bet Phil was questioning what he'd gotten himself into at this point!

 

It's a funny thing, independence. When I was at home I worked full time and though in my head I thought I was an independent wo-man, I was far from it. I've run out of toothpaste.. Poof! A new tube appears. I need a lift tonight.. Poof! Dad takes me. I need help submitting papers.. Poof! Mum does it for me. When I moved here and started finding my own way around, doing my own grocery shopping and organizing my own life I realised just how much my parents did for me.

 

I had quite a hard time the first 6 to 12 months settling in, there were many nights of calling my parents homesick, anxious and upset. It was a big culture shock and the working culture was completely different from what I was used to in Australia. Everything was new to me; lime scale (hard white stuff that accumulates in the water due to old pipes), certain phrases used and not used (note to self, thongs DO NOT mean flip flips over here), 'pigs in a blanket' (sausages wrapped in bacon, a common British dish. Rather delicious actually), the way people line up on escalators in an orderly fashion on the right hand side. In a way I really felt like an outsider, it took some time getting used to. Having to build new friendships at work and socially was challenging as I'm not the most outgoing person in a new environment. Living with my partner all of a sudden was a major adjustment period also. Everyone goes through it, not having as much personal space as you used to and adjusting to each others household habits, of course we had the odd fight about wet towels on the floor but eventually we found our rhythm with one another. 

 

 

Fast forward two and a half years and I couldn't be happier, it really was the best thing I ever did. We are engaged now, I have an amazing group of friends here and I've furthered my career and travelled to so many places. Best of all, I've literally conquered my anxiety issues. Knowing what triggers my anxiety, (which, essentially is the unknown) and putting myself out of my comfort zone was the most challenging thing I've ever done but it has taught me how to deal with uncertainties. I had a really tough time at the beginning, but eventually I found my feet and when something was up in the air or I started becoming nervous over one thing or another I would remind myself I've done such a big thing already and if I can conquer that, I can deal with any little issue coming my way. 

 

Living and travelling abroad has exposed me to so much culture, I feel like I've learnt more about my own country being overseas than I had living in it. I've seen the good and the bad sides of many countries, I've heard different opinions and perspectives about Australia and it's made me appreciate it so much more, as always we take for granted what's in front of us. Australia, like every place, has its good and bad. But It's a country with so much beautiful nature, amazing weather, home grown produce and an abundance of land. The salary is decent, the people are friendly and the lifestyle is seriously easy going and relaxed. It's the perfect place for retirement and I don't think there's a better place to settle and raise a family.

 

Whilst being here, my friendships back home have most definitely been put to the test. Yes it can be difficult to coordinate regular phone chats what with the time difference, but at the end of the day if you want to make it work, it will work. I have some friends who I speak to every single day, all day long and some who I call once a week for a really nice lengthy catch up. Then there's the ones whom I haven't heard from since I left, those friendships may seem like they will pick up where they left off when I return, but it will never really be the same. I've really learnt to appreciate the ones that have made the effort to stay in touch and even though we aren't physically close, I feel closer to them now more than ever.

 

I've grown to have an open mind. Living at home with my parents, driving my car to and from work and socialising on the weekends with friends who live down the road was about the extent of my worldly knowledge. This experience has taught me that diversity, different religions and different cultures are what makes the world a beautiful place to live. I've seen poor people in terrible living conditions that are happier than wealthy and comfortable people that I know. I've tried exotic food (think zebra, bugs and crocodile) and cuisines I never would have been open to in the past. I've read stories on the news that most people take as face value but because I've been to that place I have an entirely different view which cannot be swayed. This experience has taught me more than I ever expected. Every day is new adventure, so if you ever have a chance, take the plunge and you'll make memories to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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