Choosing to move away is not a decision to be taken lightly. You're leaving everything you know for the complete unknown, and it's certainly not easy. But making that decision alone already says so much about you and your character. At this stage in your life you're carefree, with few responsibilities and can decide to take time out, do some traveling and experience the expat life.
Once you have decided that you would like to spend some time abroad it's down to the nitty gritty. Visa requirements vary for different countries. Do your research and apply well in advance, the correct visa can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to obtain. There are so many options these days with graduate visas allowing you to work abroad for 2 years or full work visa if you have a masters degree.
When that visa comes through it's go go go.... Let's be real, it's exciting and daunting all at the same time. The final days of moving can be overwhelming. There is always so much to do. So many goodbyes, you spend days running around in a daze gathering things you may or may not need, leaving behind most of what you own and everyone you know.
My first tip here would be to do your research. Check out what you can and can't get in your new destination. For example, when I first moved to China deodorant didn't exist there so I needed to stock up! It was also impossible to get a moisturiser that didn't have bleach in it to whiten your skin. There's no such thing as fake tan in Asia. As every good girl scout learns... Be prepared!
On that note... Be financially prepared, have cash for a rainy day. My grandmother always said to me "Sarah, have enough money for a flight home just incase". Usually you won't know when you will receive your first pay check and getting money from an account back home is just not as straight forward as it seems sometimes. If you have access to a credit card make sure you have set up the necessary requirements to pay it off. The last thing you need is to be racking up interest unbeknownst to yourself. You don't know if you will need a deposit for your accommodation or a medical emergency where you won't be looked after until you make an upfront payment.
At first it's all fantastic. You're often in a jet-lagged whirlwind of trying to sort yourself out, get a sim card, find accommodation, buy groceries and sort transport. Everything is a new adventure and without even realising, you're learning and taking it all in. You have no choice but to hit the ground running. Everything will surprise you. Something that takes a week to achieve at home may take an hour in your new destination and vice versa things that are done quickly at home can take weeks in your new destination.
Once the dust settles things can become daunting. The excitement begins to wear off and reality hits. You're here, a million miles from home, missing the little things in life while trying to embrace all the new things. I remember being 'stuck' in France for two months and screaming about how much I missed concentrated orange juice. You have to take one day at a time and what appears to be a huge deal one day usually seems a lot smaller the next morning. That first time a problem arises and you figure it out all by yourself you'll feel like Superwoman and rightly so. You got this!
What nobody ever tells you is how difficult it can be at times. It's not easy missing life events, weddings, births, graduations and even nights out with your friends. It's really tough sometimes. In the last five years I have missed out on so many events at home that I wish I could have attended but I made the choice to move so it was just one of the downsides. I even missed out on two Christmases at home with my family! They found that tough too as I have a very small family so one person missing had a pretty big effect. Is Christmas celebrated in the country you are planning on moving to? Will you get time off to go home for Christmas and will you be able to afford it?
You may even find yourself pining over your local coffee shop back home. You'll miss places and things you never knew you loved. My advice for this is to keep busy!
Build a network of people and friends around you. Now this is easier said than done and one of the things I've struggled with the most. Nobody is going to come knocking on your door and asking if you want to go for coffee. You have to get out there yourself. There are many different apps and groups you can join to meet people. I love Meetup.com and HEY Vina. These are great apps for connecting with people and initiating a meet up. It may seem a bit weird in the beginning, kinda like a blind date or something but once you realise that the others there are in the exact same boat as you it's so much easier to attend the meet-ups with confidence and laugh and have fun with people that were complete strangers a few hours ago.
Joining a group or picking up a hobby are also great ways of meeting people. Even if there is a language barrier people can be very accommodating and willing to communicate through a series of charades and body language. Believe me learning Irish dancing through Mandarin was never on my bucket list! Everyone you meet has potential to become a great contact and may have advice on new places to try.
Speaking from experience, nothing can compare you for your new land, it's not easy but it's so worth it.
Throughout your entire journey you have to remember why you took the plunge and decided to move. Everyone has a different reason... Was it to gain work experience? Learn a new language? Do more traveling? It takes courage to up and leave everything you've ever known and move abroad. But once you've done it you may as well make the most of it. Enjoy every moment, the ups and the downs! I left home knowing in my head that if it all went pear shaped I would fly home in the morning and only once in my 5 years away did I look up a flight home.
If you would like me to delve further into particular aspects of moving abroad, or have any questions or tips don't hesitate to comment below. Would love to hear about your experiences.