There are times in life when we all wish we could have a clean slate, a kind of “do over.” For those of you who have moved abroad and begun a whole new life, you know that’s exactly what you get: a completely fresh start and a chance to be a whole new version of yourself. Imagine the possibilities! They are endless, and with infinite possibility comes great potential, as well as the potential for stress. How can you maximize this new beginning while not losing sight of yourself?
First, let’s remember that before we can change anything, we need to be aware. Without awareness, we cannot take deliberate, thoughtful steps towards desired change, so start by taking the time to check in with yourself and ask, “how do I see me?”
Living in a foreign country means a certain amount of forced adaptation and acceptance are necessary in order to survive and then thrive. It can also mean that the ways in which you used to define yourself undergo a transformation. For example, if you were a highly verbal social butterfly, and you are now without a friend base and you find yourself struggling to communicate in the local language, there’s a good chance you won’t feel like you at first. But, by not feeling like the version of you you’re used to, you have the potential to develop a new side, a different dimension, and one that can surprise you. This comes from being pushed – and sometimes pulled – out of your comfort zone.
Whether you moved abroad for love, work, family, school or just to have a different experience, so much of what awaits you is difficult if not impossible to prepare for. The reality of figuring out who you are in a totally new culture means letting go a bit of who you were in your own culture. The fiercely independent can find it difficult to have to lean on others and ask for help. The gainfully employed can find it scary to give up their job for the sake of their partner’s. The supremely social can feel extremely lonely without loads of friends nearby.
Take a moment to think about how you would describe yourself on your home turf. Are you independent? Out-going? Career-driven? Family-oriented? Extroverted and social? Introverted and quiet? Now, realize that at least some of those descriptors are going to change, to some degree, upon moving to a new country. By seeing these changes as potential for growth rather than stifling constraints, the process of adapting to your new culture and the new you in that culture, gets a bit easier. Remember to have empathy for this new you, the one who is bravely learning to ask for help, to let go (at least temporarily) of a career identity, to make all new friends and above all, to find new ways to describe yourself. Let the reinvention begin!
Article by Karen Rigatti
Certified Professional Counselor