5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving Abroad

By Marina Krivonossova on February 26, 2021

When you’re an adventurous spirit who’s been trapped in the same country for most of their life, getting the opportunity to move abroad can feel like a godsend. You get to step out of your comfort zone, try something new, meet new people, and really get a proper opportunity to start over. But moving abroad isn’t as easy and carefree as you might hope. As someone who moved from the US to the Netherlands roughly two years ago, I know that now. So, if you’re looking to make that big transition and move your whole life to a new country, check out this list of five things I wish I knew before moving abroad.

1. You might feel like an outsider. When I first came to the Netherlands, I didn’t feel like I fit in amongst the locals. Even though the majority of them looked like me, and I could easily blend in among the crowd, I always felt like I stood out. We spoke different languages, we had different upbringings, we viewed the world in entirely different ways as a result of our origins. And though I hoped this feeling would go away after some time, it didn’t. Everywhere I go, I am reminded that I am an outsider.

2. You’ll get homesick more often than you’d think. Ever since I was little, I’d tell my parents that my dream was to move to Europe. And when I was in college, I finally made that happen. I was ready to leave behind my life in California and embark on a new adventure, leaving my family and friends behind. “It’ll be easy, I’m used to being on my own,” I told myself. After all, I spent my undergraduate career living 400 miles away from my home, so I thought I was used to that independence. But living abroad, I caught myself missing my home more than ever before. Moving to a different city or a different state is one thing. Moving to a whole new country, with entirely different norms and customs, is an entirely different experience that is bound to leave you homesick on more occasions than you can imagine.

3. Internet research can’t prepare you for the locals. Sure, you can do your research on local norms and customs before you move abroad. In fact, it’s probably a smart idea to do so. Your research will give you a decent idea of what to expect in your new country of residence. That being said, no amount of internet research can prepare you for what you’ll experience amongst the locals.

4. The work situation in your destination country might not be ideal. Coming to the Netherlands from the United States, I thought finding a job in my field of expertise would be easy. When I lived in California, I was regularly receiving job offers from positions to which I had applied. At that time, I had no idea how spoiled I was. Coming to the Netherlands as an English speaker with no Dutch citizenship, I quickly realized how limited my opportunities were. I wish I hadn’t been so presumptuous and had instead researched job requirements and opportunities before deciding which country to move to for my master’s degree and post-graduate career.

5. Your new home might not meet expectations. Growing up, I had this idealistic vision of Europe in my mind: ancient castles, beautiful architecture, delicious food, interesting people, and an overall fairytale-esque environment. While I know I shouldn’t have moved abroad with such high expectations, it happened anyway, and I was quickly disappointed upon discovering the reality of the situation. Don’t get me wrong — the Netherlands is a beautiful and interesting country. But my expectations for the entertainment here, the food, the diversity, and so much more were not even close to met. It’s important to prepare yourself for this when you move abroad because the image you have in your mind of your destination country might fail to align with the reality.

Do I regret moving abroad? Absolutely not. I challenged myself, took a risk, tried something new, met the love of my life, wrote my thesis on a topic I was passionate about, and traveled extensively. I felt like I saw more in my short time in Europe than I had seen in years of living in California.

But what do I regret? Not preparing better for my big move. That’s why I wanted to share with you the five things I wish I knew before moving abroad — so you, as a fellow world traveler, have some more insights regarding things to consider and research before making that move yourself. Happy travels and best of luck!

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