Your ticket has been bought, you’ve dusted off your suitcase (holy shit that thing is a lot smaller than I remember) and you’re kind of starting to panic.
Is this real life? Am I really moving across the ocean to a foreign country where I don’t know a single soul?
Yup. That’s happening.
So how do you mentally prepare yourself before the big move so that you don’t totally have a melt down in the airport? Let’s break it down into some bite sized pieces of advice.
- Realize that most of what you know about cultural rules and norms in your home country will soon be irrelevant. Spain (and any other country, really) is a whole other ballgame.
- Invest in a scarf (or scarves) and wear them religiously from October-April or face the wrath of Spanish Women Everywhere.
- This is a cliché…but expect the unexpected. The best memories are the ones you’d never imagine you could make. For example, seeing the Mona Lisa (expected) is cool, but getting serenaded by 3 French teens with guitars as you sip wine on the Champs de Mars (unexpected) is unforgettable.
- Calm the eff down. I don’t mean to be harsh, but don’t waste your last few months at home worrying about visas and background checks and finding an apartment etc etc. I mean yes, get the do-able things done, but realize most of your worries are things that aren’t in your control. Breatheeeee.
- Start studying Spanish (or whatever language they speak in your soon-to-be home). At least for me, the majority of my nervousness about moving abroad stemmed form my lack of confidence in my Spanish skills and imagining myself having to navigate life (bank accounts, apartment hunting, talking to my coworkers) in Spanish. You’ll feel a lot better and it will go a lot smoother if you brush up before you come.
- Awkward is the new normal. You no longer blend in, for better or for worse. Get used to it.
- Embrace your physical differences. You will most likely be called out for everything from piercings and tattoos to the weird mole on your arm, or will maybe be asked if you’re pregnant. I’m not kidding. That actually happened (more than once in my life). Kids can unwittingly be brutal, though usually (usually) adults have more tact. If you’re self-conscious about something, I suggest you get over that ASAP.
- Learn the generic/international name for any meds you may take. You’ll thank yourself later, just in case.
- Convince yourself that you’re competent. Sometimes it may feel otherwise when you first get here, so make sure it’s engrained deep.
- Think carefully about how you want to portray your home country and do some research so that you can do it justice when it comes time to defend it against negative stereotypes and people who have only seen it in the movies.
- Learn how to drink like a Spaniard and avoid those uncomfortable guiri moments where you order sangria and all of the Spaniards uncomfortably shift in their seats.
- Prepare to be humbled. Fitting in won’t come easily and you’ll have to accept being wrong every once in a while so that you can learn and grow to understand your new foreign culture.
- Don’t get cocky. Yes, it’s cool that you are moving abroad , but don’t treat others as if they’re missing out just because they’re not. You’ll probably be jealous of them come some rainy Sunday 2 months down the road when you’re totally homesick and lonely.
- Speaking of homesick and lonely…expect homesickness. Yes, this coming from the girl who couldn’t wait to go away for college and who rarely went home except for summer and winter vacations even though she only lived an hour away. I didn’t think homesickness would get a grip on me as I’ve never been home-lover if that makes sense. My home always gave me a bit of anxiety for personal reasons so I definitely did NOT expect to crave it so badly once I was abroad.
- Revel in the fact that you’re about to make one of the biggest leaps of your life and be proud of yourself for being so brave!
So, do you think you can do it? Have you ever moved abroad and felt mentally prepared beforehand? What are your tips and suggestions? Let me know in the comments!