Sunday, 11 October 2015

Living Abroad - the Good and the Bad


It has now been more than a year since I moved to Scotland to start university and live by myself. It's crazy how quickly this year has passed, and Glasgow already feels like home. Before I moved, however, I was a big bundle of anxiety. I had already lived abroad for a while, when I spent six months studying French in Paris, but I was terribly homesick during those months.

My six months in Paris was my first time not living with either of my parents, and on top of that I was in a foreign country where no one spoke my language. I do love Paris as a city, and I'm really glad I managed to learn French, but in general I didn't really enjoy my time there. I stayed with a host family, and although they were really lovely, I hated the lack of privacy and how dependent I was on them. I had to share a room with another student and since I'm introverted and like having my own space, it was really not my thing. Plus, the other students were served dinner by the host family, and not being able to choose what or when to eat was pretty tiring in the long run. 

When I moved to Scotland, I was worried it would be similar to my experience in Paris, but it really wasn't. Perhaps student accommodation wasn't amazing, but at least I had my own room, my own (teeny tiny) bathroom, and I was able to cook for myself. I was much more independent, to put it simply. Although I didn't become best friends with any of my flatmates, they were all really nice and we got along well. As for university, I love it, and I've grown to really love Glasgow too. So all in all, I'm much happier with everything this time around. I really feel like I've ended up in the right place, doing the right thing. Now that I'm living in a flat with my sister, I like it even more. 

Drawing from my experiences of living abroad, I thought I'd put together a wee list of negatives (and how to deal with them) and positives. 

THE BAD
(and how to deal with it)

Homesickness. Even if you're happy where you are, you are going to get pangs of homesickness, and that's alright. I think the best way to deal with it is to get outside and do something, or spend time with other people. Another idea is to chat on Skype with your loved ones from back home (but that might make you miss the more).

Not being able to see your friends and family as often. I think this one is the worst, to be honest. I would give anything to be able to teleport back to Sweden and spend time with my loved ones just whenever. Thankfully, there are things like Skype and Facetime that make things so much easier. Technology, you're fab.

Feeling like a stranger in a new culture. British and Swedish culture aren't that different, but there are still moments when I feel lost, don't get an inside joke, or don't understand what anyone's talking about. It can make you feel like an outsider, but I think the best thing to do is to express your interest, learn and tell people about your own country's customs. 

Missing your home country's food. Most things that I eat at home are available in the UK too, but there are a few things that I miss, like lingonberry jam, Swedish chocolate, and getting to choose from twenty types of rye bread rather than just the one. The solution? Eat these things as much as you can when you're home visiting, until you're sick of them. Then you won't miss it as much. And get people to bring them to you when they're visiting.

THE GOOD

Getting to know new people. Moving someplace new will make it necessary to reach out and get to know new people, and as scary as it might be, it's also pretty cool to make new acquaintances from all over the world. 

Experiencing a different culture. As mentioned, it can make you feel like a bit of an alien, but it's honestly wonderful to immerse yourself in another culture and learn more about it. It will give you a new perspective on your home country, too.

Exploring new places. Most likely, you've been to the majority of the places worth visiting back home, and moving to a new city and a new country gives you the chance to discover and explore so many new places. After a year in Scotland, there are still so many places I haven't been!

Appreciating home more. I've always loved Sweden, but it's easy to become blind when you're home, and living abroad makes you appreciate the small things more. Like winters with actual snow, clean streets, a proper recycling system, and less rain...

Do you have any experiences with living abroad?

Love, Mimmi.