Give it Time
By contributing author and educator: Vanessa Cleys
So you’ve decided to teach abroad! Awesome! Congrats! The world is your oyster! Catch flights not feelings. Blah Blah Blah. The excitement is real! You pack your things, kiss your family goodbye and hop on a plane with stars in your eyes. Dreams of new friendships, new foods, and a new career fill your brain.
The adventure is waiting…and an adventure it will be. But, I am here to prepare you. It might not initially be all rainbows and butterflies. There’s an unbroadcasted adjustment period to life abroad. You will be sad. You might feel frustrated. But give it time, my friend. Give it time to morph into something exciting and beautiful.
Stage 1: Excitement: F%@& yes! I’m moving!: I remember getting the email, my first international job offer. Holy moly!? My dream is coming true. I had one goal after college and it was to live abroad. FINALLY, I got the job. I had two months to prepare. I began the prepping. I called everyone I knew, and skipped along enjoying the end of one chapter and ready for a new beginning.
“What am I thinking!?”
Stage 2: Second guessing: What the F%@&!? I’m moving??: Within a blink of an eye, two months were coming to an end. Parties were had with friends, family, work. The second guessing began. “What am I thinking!? My life is good here!? Do I really think I can move and have THIS good of a life AGAIN?!” Tears were shed, clothes were donated, and the butterflies began.
Stage 3: Fear of the unknown: Holy F%@& I am really boarding this plane??: As I strolled up to the airport with my life stuffed into two suitcases, the anxiety set it. The dreams were becoming reality. Deep, thought-out breathes and sunglasses cover my puffy eyes and sniffles. Sadness has now overshadowed any prior thought of excitement. Once I finish watching Good Will Hunting on my computer…my new life on foreign land will begin. I think to myself, “I hope they like me where I am going.”
Stage 4: Relief: I made it…and there’s some normal people here!: Once I landed, I was greeted with faces of familiarity. Not because I knew them, but because we shared the same hopeful expression of eagerness/nervousness. We swapped pleasantries and a glimmer of hope was had. With each day and new person I met, I made mental notes of who I thought would be my friend. You will become oddly observant…and annoyingly good at small talk. Your days will be busy and optimistic, but the nights are where it gets hard.
“Why is this so hard?”
Stage 5: Loneliness: Will someone please be my f%@&ing friend?!: My first couple weekend were unintentionally spent sober. I sat in my apartment with no internet, no TV, barely any phone service and worked on word searches. I contemplated the birthdays I had already missed and the plans that were being had without me. I was missing the small things like watching The Bachelor with my roommates and drinking wine on the porch way past my bedtime. Did I make the wrong decision? Why is this so hard? And why doesn’t anyone speak English!? Where are all those people I thought would be my friend?
Stage 6: Acceptance: I figured out grocery stores! I have weekend plans!: After spending hours on end at school, my coworkers eventually became my friends. Slowly, I allowed my true self to not be hidden by my “stuffier” teacher persona. My routine developed. I had a grocery store, a gym membership, and most importantly…wine nights were steady! My TV and internet were installed, but were less needed due to a developing social life. I was setting in quite nice to a new job, new apartment, and a new group of people I was now calling my friends.
Stage 7: Love: I F%@&ing love my life!: Life abroad hits you fast. The ups and downs of it all can be exhausting. But there is one thing that is certain, you will meet people who share your passions for both adventure as well as education. Not to get all sappy, but those people will become your family. You will get to share this small moment in time where you work together, travel together, and answer life’s questions together. The experience will be fun and unpredictable, and things will forever change. Embrace that change. Embrace your new life, because once you do….it will be f%@&ing awesome.
Stage 8: New location: F%@&. Repeat steps 1-7 . Take the plunge. Put yourself in the world of the unknown, but most importantly, give it time to be great.
Vanessa is a secondary social studies and language arts educator hailing from Chicago. She spent time with Teach for America and has taught internationally in Guatemala.