Where is it safe for women to move? How do I budget my income with the cost of living? How will I make new friends? Could anyone do my hair? Should I even bother with dating? When is it too soon to be missing home?
Those were my worries before moving abroad.
Should I really be getting my Masters degree overseas? Am I prepared for a different culture than what I’m used to? Will I actually make a difference or should I have stayed my behind home?
I repeated these questions to myself like a mantra en route to the airport. Suddenly, moving didn’t feel as fun or as fearless as it did inside of my head. I couldn’t help my anxiety towards making such a major step in a new direction. I had three overpacked suitcases behind me and a one-way ticket to London in my hands.
And looking back on things, I really wish I had this short list of advice and affirmations:
Smile more. MUCH MORE.
Smiling at strangers has been my ticket out of the Awkward Girls club. A smile on my face usually lets people know that I’m a) approachable and b) perfectly content with or without conversation. I’d also like to think that it makes me appear more confident, which in turn, actually makes me more confident. The key here is to take a look up from your phone once in awhile. You never know who you’ll share a gaze with!
Master your own introduction.
Work on introducing yourself exactly how you want to be remembered. My life hack has been to say my name, my hometown and something I’m currently working towards. I always repeat someone’s name back to them (mostly so I don’t forget it) and I try to remember one thing they sounded passionate about. That way we’re connected through something meaningful. Another great way to ensure that people remember you? Introduce them to others by sharing one of their accomplishments. Everyone gets acquainted and you make the impression that you value the people you meet. Own it.
Use social media to socialize, not to obsess.
One habit that took me forever to drop was spending hours online, switching through social media apps. I would pretty much go to sleep and wake up with my phone in my hand! Being on the internet helped me feel at home and I valued how easy it was to keep tabs on America. So I started checking my social media once or twice a day and using my free time to attend events around campus, meet an acquaintance for lunch, take a walk in my new neighborhood, or go and wander. There are thousands of apps that can help you find your way anywhere (like Rome 2 Rio) or meet other solo travelers in your area (like Backpackr) but you don’t necessarily need the internet. The best way to take in the world around you is by knowing when to tune the rest of the world out.
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a perfectionist which has prevented me from applying for opportunities I didn’t feel qualified for or from dating people who I felt weren’t “good enough”. It became crucial for me to accept that there would be plenty of things I’d fail at. Forgetting my umbrella in one of the rainiest cities, taking the wrong train home, having a bad interview, losing momentum to write.. I could go on and on about mistakes I’ve made. Luckily, those very mistakes become some of the best lessons I’ve learned since moving abroad.
The most important lesson I learned – hands down – was to prioritize my happiness. It’s my pride, hard work and ambition that’s gotten me this far. So I know now to remain humble, focused and resilient. If you’re ever having any doubts about an upcoming move, a current transition or a decision you’ve already made, remember this: Travelling is a real gift and a true accomplishment. And it’s only the beginning of journeying through a new realm of independence.
Written by Aundrea Murray