When discussing my time working abroad, many mention similar ambition. But as we all know, it’s easier said than done. This is because it includes uncertainty, discomfort, lots of calls, more emails and countless considerations. And that’s just the work needed for a professional transitions. Working abroad made me more confident to instigate and accept change, as well as widened my entire perspective.
The professional opportunities our generation benefits from exceeds our parents’choices. Working on the other side of the States was considered ambitious or even complicated when my parents graduated university. Today, it seems uneventful (yet still an accomplishment). Any move, whether cross-country or abroad, means getting used to a new job, living environment and governmental system. It’s an adjustment that never stops. Even after living in The Netherlands for seven years, I am still learning.
The best part about working abroad is learning about new cultures. This includes the culture of your new country and the people you meet. It gives you a better perspective of your home country. The many hallmarks I considered ‘normal’ in the States are not abroad. Discussing these with colleagues and friends is an amusing pastime, as there’s always a topic to analyse. It can be everything from common idioms to birthday celebrations. Living versus visiting a new country made me more aware of how these differences shape our overall mindsets.
As mentioned earlier, moving abroad is not easy. Restarting your life, whether it’s finding new friends or your go-to cafe, is a game of trial-and-error. Unlike university where hundreds, even thousands, of freshmen were doing in tandem, your move to another country is not coordinated with a greater group. It means you are processing these frustrations and exciting moments on your own or with a partner. It can feel isolating. But many times this initial loneliness or uncertainty results in unexpected relationships or pastimes.
When living in the States, I would ask my parents for advice around a wide range of topics. It could be what insurance to buy to which shoe cleaner is the most effective. But their advice did not apply to The Netherlands. Taxes, purchasing a house, hiring a contractor, health insurance, professional culture - it’s all different. Though we would discuss possibilities, I would need to do my own research and ask for advice outside of my familiar circle. I already considered myself independent, but living abroad meant final decisions were really my own.
Comfortable with uncertainty
When moving to a new country, there’s a lot you don’t know. For example, ‘how long will I stay’ or ‘is it easy to access a Dutch pension when I’m 70’? Many of these questions have reliable answers, but still no definite resolve. I am often going ahead with a share of uncertainties. This can make many hesitate or hold off on a decision. But over the years, I became more comfortable making the most informed decision possible, while knowing risks were involved. Your life is not as predicable when living outside of known systems.
Much like learning another language, you become more aware of your needs, setbacks and approaches. A second move doesn’t seem as daunting - only easier and even addicting. There’s a thrill with overcoming the unfamiliar and discovering something new. Similarly, there are many aspects about moving abroad that remain mundane. Doing laundry, paying bills or fixing clothes doesn’t give me any greater thrill than doing them at home. When you uncover these aside the greater challenges, a move abroad can appear more familiar.
I get it - moving abroad might or might not be possible for you now. But don’t cross off the option due to doubts in your own abilities. If my twenty-four year-old self could do it, I’m sure you could too. It’s a challenge that has a mix of the mundane and magnificent. Sure, I have no idea what’s next. But I would rather live with uncertainty and a greater perspective than crushing dullness and predictability.