I am going to quote this morning from an email that I wrote about a year ago. A new couple was preparing to move into our area (although not with our organization) and they were emailing with questions about what to pack. Of course those specifics vary so much from one situation to another, so I will not include the whole email!  But here are the last few paragraphs . . .

"One more thing I will add, totally unrelated to packing. This is something that I wish someone had told me before we came . . .

EXPECT THAT THE ADJUSTMENT WILL BE REALLY HARD!  Maybe it will not be as hard as you expect, and that will be a pleasant surprise. :-) But I was expecting life overseas to be one big, fun, exciting adventure. My short-term trips as a young person were certainly fun and exciting. And those I knew who were living overseas told me how wonderful ----  is, how they love their life here, how much fun the markets are, how nice the people are (and it's all true) so I guess I expected to just love everything as soon as I got here!

But seriously, even moving from one place to another within the U.S. is hard - getting used to a new house, new neighbors, new stores, missing your family and friends. So obviously moving across the world into a totally foreign culture is ten times harder!! I'm not saying this so that you will dread it, or to scare you. You will get used to life here and I have no doubt that you will learn to love it. But I'm just saying that you should give yourself time. Don't feel like a failure if you don't feel immediate love for the people, or if you don't like some of the foods, or if you cry at the thought of going to market by yourself . . . it's TOTALLY normal!

I wish someone had told me that, because I spent my first year here feeling like an absolute failure because I was struggling. No one else told me (at the time) that it was hard for them too. I thought I was the only one. Now I realize that actually it was completely normal and basically ALL expats struggle to adjust! Give yourself grace - it might not be hard right away, it might not hit after you've been here several months. It might be hard in different ways than you expect. The things you think will be a challenge might turn out to be a non-issue, and other things may take you by surprise instead. Just don't have too many expectations, and don't feel alone if you're struggling - because you're NOT ALONE!"


So that's my two-cents. What about you? What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you moved overseas? What would you tell a friend who is moving overseas for the first time? Or maybe you're right in the throes of the adjustment yourself, and you need a place to "dump" - or ask a question. This is your chance!

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