In May 2013 I said goodbye to a meaningless and mind-numbing job and decided to enroll in a TEFL practicum. Seven months later, I booked a one-way ticket from Chicago to Seoul and the rest is history. Prior to moving abroad, I conducted extensive research on Korean culture, reached out to people through social media andscoured the internet for expat-related blogs to get myself acclimated and prepared for the changes ahead.
Once I arrived in Korea, I was able to bond well with some like-minded coworkers, which made it extremely easy to make friends. My weekends were busy with activities in Korea and my email inbox was full of messages from friends back home eagerly asking inquiries about my new adventure. Sounds perfect, right? And it is. However, after awhile, the initial buzz of my new home began to slowly fade and things that were once exotic and foreign became commonplace.
Living abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but no blog or guide book could have prepared me for some of the emotions that come with the move. While being an expat is as romantic and exciting as one can imagine, it can often be filled with bouts of loneliness. Your friends from home may not message you as often as they once did. Some of your best friends will finish their contracts and move back home or onto their next adventure. You will miss birthdays, weddings, family events and nights out with friends. It can be extremely difficult at times, but it’s important to remember you’re not alone.
Here are 3 tips for adjusting to life abroad should you find yourself feeling a bit blue:
1. Join a group or take a language class
Being a part of a group is not only satisfying, but it is one of the best ways to meet people who share common interests. While I’ve been living in South Korea, I have been active in yoga groups, language exchanges and will soon be joining a book club. If you have to travel a bit to meet – it’s okay! Take the plunge and go into the situation with an open heart and mind.
2. Put yourself out there
Before I moved to Korea, I found it extremely easy to meet new friends. However, making friends as an adult is hard! I often wish it weren’t too creepy to walk up to other adults and say, “will you be my friend?” Unfortunately, it is creepy. I’ve found that by introducing myself first, extending invitations and just being open in general is a more socially acceptable way to go about making friends. This is also important to keep in mind if you feel you’ve lost touch with loved ones back home.
3. Find a balance
I’ve met some people who aren’t opening themselves up to new opportunities because they are constantly trying to be in contact with friends, family or significant others back home. While it is definitely important to communicate with the people who matter most back in your home country, it’s also important to understand that you’re not going to have as rewarding of an experience if you don’t explore your unfamiliar home with some new companions. Living in the past is not going to bring forth any opportunities for you to grow. So put yourself out there, but don’t forget where you came from!