Features

What To Expect When Living Abroad For The First Time

Living abroad comes with a whole series of different adjustment periods. Just when you’ve figured one thing out, another confusing issue pops up. And while it has been as rewarding as I’d hoped, the process has also been tricky to navigate. Whether you’re taking a gap year, moving for work, or just upping stumps, there are some things you can expect might be challenging while living overseas.

I left Sydney for New York six months ago, and it has been a stressful, emotional, deeply gratifying experience that I can’t compare to anything else. When I was planning this move, I knew it would be a challenge, but I figured that once I had “settled in” the only thing I’d need to contend with would be home-sickness. Oh, how I’ve learnt since then!

If you’re considering making the jump, or taking a gap year, here are six things you should prepare for when you’re living overseas:

#1 In the beginning, every decision you make will be hard

An isle of groceries at a supermarket

There’s nothing like living in a foreign country to highlight the creature comforts you’ve grown accustomed to.

For me, even grocery shopping was stressful at first. What brand of tuna do I buy? Which laundry detergent do I want? How the hell do I order leg ham in pounds?

Things that are no-brainers back home – like where to get a great coffee, for example – take time to figure out, meaning even the most straightforward decision requires a degree of trial and error. Something you take for granted when you’ve lived in the same city for your entire life.

#2 There will be moments where you will question it all

moving overseas living overseas gap year

Something you need to remember is that uprooting your life and moving it to a different time zone is exhausting.

On top of finding a place to live, a job and new friends, you have to adjust to these significant changes without the luxury of being able to run to your mum/best friend/favourite bartender when it all gets to be a bit much.

There will be days when you will wonder what the hell you’re doing and if you’ve ruined your life. Most likely, you haven’t. Just give yourself time to process the madness and accept that you won’t figure it all out right away.

#3 The Aussie accent will suddenly sound like a hug

Two women sitting on a bench, drinking beer and laughing

As time passes, you’ll find you miss the Australian twang a little. So, when you do hear it, you’ll be surprised by how dang happy it makes you feel.

There’s an instant camaraderie you share with other Aussies abroad, too. As soon as you hear “yeah, nah” you’ll know a friend is nearby.

Expect to find yourself in a lot of conversations purely because you and the person in front of you are from Oz. It’s quite lovely, to be perfectly honest.

#4 You’ll make some incredible friends while living abroad

Being far away from your closest friends is hard. Let’s not sugar-coat that. But moving away does allow you to meet new people, and broadening your friendship group is an exciting thing.

If you’re anything like me, most of your pals are the ones you met in high school or university. You’ve known each other for a million years and are probably so close that you sometimes wonder if you’ve merged into the same person.

Meeting people from different backgrounds with different experiences and even opinions is always conducive to personal growth. You’ll probably buddy up with a few other expats, too who will understand your journey like no one else can.

#5 Your relationships at home will be tested a little

It’s fair to assume that you might not be able to speak with your loved ones back home as often once you’ve relocated on account of, you know, living in a different country. But it’s essential that you make time to check in.

You might be a little overwhelmed by all the change, but try not to get too caught up in your bubble. Figure out the time difference hurdle and give the people you care about a call when you can. And don’t forget that life at home has kept moving without you, too. Make sure your catch-ups with friends and family aren’t just updates on your life – it’s got to go both ways, friend.

#6 You’ll see just how resilient you are

Taking a leap like living abroad is brave. So, give yourself credit for getting this far.

You might find it takes time to figure out which bank to go with, or where you can find a smashed avo in the morning, but with every little win, you’ll learn. And before you know it, the small decisions that once caused you to panic will become second-nature.

You’ve just jumped into the deep end of the largest pool you’ve ever encountered. Don’t forget to take notice of that fact that you’re swimming, unassisted, you badass, magical unicorn, you.

Check out Qantas flights to begin your next adventure.