As inspirational as the ‘Pack your bags, book a flight, don’t look back’ photos are on Instagram, the reality is that it isn’t that easy.
Moving internationally from your home town/country can be a daunting venture. What if you don’t like it? How will you start from scratch socially? What about cultural differences? Your mind can be pulled in ten different directions and even make you shelf the idea entirely, and that’s before you’ve even thought about the financial implications.
You’ve maybe thought about it. You’ve maybe tried to do it but failed. You’ve maybe had an underlying desire since youth to move abroad but never plucked up the courage. Speaking from experience, it is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your self development, cultural awareness and even earning power.
I grew up with a mother who worked in the aviation industry and thus, concessionary rates meant I was afforded the luxury of travelling extensively from early youth. This exposure to a world beyond the confines of my small Scottish hometown only served to fuel my appetite to keep visiting, searching and learning about other cities and countries.
Since the age of ten, I was fixated on living in New York City. Something just clicked when I experienced Manhattan when holidaying in youth. I distinctly remember sitting in Washington Square Park early one evening on a holiday, fantasizing about being part of the city buzz not as a tourist but as a resident. By July 2016, I fulfilled that visualization, kick starting a process in which I celebrated three birthdays while living & working on three continents, in three consecutive years, and the plan is to keep going. Here is what I have learned so far:
You learn to adapt
One of the first things I recognized living abroad was my ability to adapt to different situations, both professionally and socially. I’ve always been a relatively outgoing individual, however, I noticed my confidence growing exponentially when put in a situation that I was totally uncomfortable with. It sounds simplistic, but often human nature means that we shy away from such situations and ‘stick to what we know’.
I moved to New York at the height of Donald Trump’s campaign to the White House. Naturally, a main focal point of many client interactions lead to discussion about politics. I listened as many spoke about their concerns, frustrations, hopes going forward and managed to develop a rapport in which I could sympathize with these points of view. For example, hearing people talk about health care and costs therein was something I had previously been unable to discuss at great depth, having grown up in a country where health care is completely socialized.
You get to know yourself
Sure, it’s cliched, many going on adventures to ‘find themselves’. But, throwing yourself into a foreign country and facing challenges when there can help refine your resilience and ability to deal with difficult situations. In your home country, you often have the safety blanket of parents or family members who are there in the event of a panic. Thousands of miles from home, with a time difference and no active SIM card in your phone? A different story.
One of the biggest challenges upon moving internationally is the transition from a comfortable social foundation to knowing absolutely nobody. It is a strangely liberating experience, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like to spend too much time alone. You really get to know yourself when you initially have no-one to make plans with at the weekend or weeknights. This alone can scare you off moving, but, as you start settling in more at a workplace or new gym or club, you will build up a social base. You find yourself being much more outgoing and proactive about this as you realize it will not come easy. Refining this skill then helps you enhance your appetite to persevere for things rather than be passive.
Your resume turns heads
I currently work in recruitment in Australia, therefore, I can testify first hand about international experience and how that translates to an employer. It tells the employer you are willing to push yourself beyond what’s comfortable, that you are open to learning about others and that you are ambitious. Sure, there’s no problem with an individual who has worked hard and built a career in their hometown, however, if you are applying for a company with a global presence, they will lean towards those who have demonstrated they can adapt and work well in a totally new culture. It says a lot about you before you have even opened your mouth.
It’s incredibly exciting
A new country means new clubs, new bars, new hills to climb, new restaurants, new cinemas, new societies, new languages, new routines, different people, different food, different pressures, different challenges. Don’t submit to the monotony of doing the same routine at home and instead, face your anxieties head on and take the leap.
After all, when did you last hear someone say “I am so glad I stayed at home and never attempted to see more of the world”
Get saving, get booking and get living. Thank yourself later.