When I moved to England at the age of 18 I had no realistic idea of how difficult living and studying in a foreign country was going to be. I was naive and didn’t have a proper plan. I wasn’t even sure whether I’d be getting into university! These challenges and struggles have helped me grow into the person I am today, though. Here’s a list with ten things that I’ve learned in the last four years.
Get out of my comfort zone and stand up for myself
Once you move out of your parents house, you suddenly have to take more responsibility for things. No dad around who can fix your broken tap, no mom who can sort out your doctors appointment. It’s just you. Having no one to fall back on has turned me into a much more confident person. My Dutch Directness sometimes comes in handy! Especially being a foreigner with a foreign accent, some people just don’t take you as serious. I don’t take sh*t anymore, because I had to deal with so many horrible situations where people took advantage of me, were horrible to me or didn’t think I was enough simply because I wasn’t born in the UK. Even though it straight up sucks, it has helped me to stand up for myself.
Take initiative and take risks
I’ve learned that it’s a good thing to take risks. If moving to England to study isn’t a big enough risk on its own, I guarantee you I had to take a lot of risks in order to get where I am today. Building up an entire new life from scratch is hard, and without taking initiative you won’t get anywhere. It’s not always comfortalbe, but you need to learn how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I’ve learned that if you have to make an effort to live the life you want to live.
Not knowing what you want in life is not a bad thing
Even though the decision I made for moving abroad shows that I have a slight idea of where I want my life to go, but to be very honest, I’m not entirely sure. I’m not sure what exact job I want, what country I want to live in, if I want kids in the future, etc. But those are worries for later. Not knowing exactly what you want doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can see it as an opportunity to find out what you do want, create opportunities for yourself and shape a life that’s perfect for you.
People aren’t that bad
The main thing I was afraid of when I moved to England was how people were going to act towards me. Were they going to treat me differently because I am “the foreigner”? I can’t say that I haven’t experienced some hate because I wasn’t born in the UK, but most people I’ve met in the UK have been amazing. They’ve accepted me into their groups, see me as their equal and treat me that way. I don’t feel like the outsider, I don’t feel different. I’m sure that’s because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with.
Settling in in a new country isn’t as hard as people make it seem to be
Whenever I tell someone that I moved here on my own when I was 18, people look at me in shock. “You moved here all alone? When you were only 18?” Yes! I mean, it ain’t easy, but with the right mindset and good work ethic it’s not impossible. Obviously I’ve been very privileged to have had my boyfriend and his parents who helped me wherever they could!
Asking for help
I like being independent and showing people I am capable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it leads to one of my biggest flaws; Not being able to ask for help. Moving abroad has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. Especially when you’re struggling. And man, I’ve struggled! I’ve struggled with easy things like getting a bank account, a phone contract, homesickness and money problems. I’ve always felt annoying when I had to reach out to others for help, but my experience has shown that asking the right people isn’t that bad. They’re happy to help, just you like’d be happy to help them.
It’s okay if people don’t like you
By coming out of my comfort zone more and getting to know myself better, I had to learn that not everybody is going to like me. I used to be very insecure about what people thought of me, especially being “the foreign girl”, and knowing that people disliked me was one of my biggest fears. Especially after the Brexit vote, I got a lot of hatred thrown at me simply because I have a different passport. But by becoming more comfortable in my own skin and with my own personality, I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world. Some people may not like me – for whatever reason – but at least I stay true to myself and don’t pretent to be someone I’m not just to be liked. There’s enough people who do like me!
A language barrier isn’t the biggest problem
Even though I was able to speak English fluently when I moved, I still struggled to speak it all day long. I struggled especially with slang that I’d never been taught in high school. Different expressions or words that I wasn’t familiar with made everyday life a bit of a challenge sometimes. Luckily, most people are prepared to help you, you just have to let them know when you’re not sure you understood them. It’s such a great way to learn and improve your own knowledge and most people don’t mind helping at all.
The value of friends
Old and new, friends have been the main reason I have been able to do what I’m doing. My friends in the Netherlands have always been very supportive of my decisions and I can always give them a call when I’m homesick or feel like I’m struggling here. The friends I’ve made since moving to Manchester have been equally incredible. They’ve made me feel like I belong here, like this is the right place for me to be. I’ve started to appreciate the value of friendship more and more now I need friends more than anything.
Having the experience of living abroad changes your life forever
All the ups and downs of living abroad have shaped me into the person I am today. Looking back on the last few years, moving to the UK has been the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s been an incredible adventure and has changed me for the better. I feel so very lucky that I was given the opportunity to move abroad and I will always be grateful for it.
If you ever get the opportunity to study abroad, especially for one or two semesters as part of your degree, I would recommend everyone to take this opportunity. Having lived abroad for two years now have taught me so many valuable life lessons I am very grateful for.
Have you ever lived abroad?
What did you learn from that experience?