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Home  > Article

Through the Woods and Across the Ocean

By Martin Lieberman

Moving overseas takes more adjustment than just moving to the next state. While most who move domestically seem to have few problems with the relocation, those who go abroad find that making a new network of friends is not always easy.

 
Be prepared for things to be different from your undergraduate traveling experiences.
 
While most who move domestically seem to have few problems with the relocation, those who go abroad find that making a new network of friends is not always easy, especially if you do not have all that much time for socializing.


"Sometimes when you live at home in the States, you get very comfortable and used to having friends around. You take a lot of things for granted, like having friends, family and just knowing your work environment," Annette says. "When you're working in a foreign country...you really have to bring yourself to another level. You're completely independent and you have no support structure. All you have is your job."

Of course, no matter where you are, there are standard ways of meeting new people: joining a gym or a social club, hanging out at a bookstore or coffee shop on a regular basis, asking co-workers to set you up, or even frequenting local Internet chat rooms (if that's your thing). Or, you could do something a little crazier like Alexis did: She participated in a bachelorette auction in Atlanta and that led her to some new relationships that she has kept to this day.

Change is scary
Be prepared, however, for things to be different from undergraduate traveling experiences. "It's one thing if you go [abroad] and you're a student because you're thrown into a situation where you can easily meet people," Annette says. "If you go over there to work, you're there to work, and you'll have to choose how you're going to spend the little free time you have."

One thing is consistent, though: you have to be open to change and willing to adapt to the new environment, regardless of where you are. There's always a disorienting "systems adjustment," which will include getting used to new methods of transportation (the subway in New York City, for example, is very different from the "T" in Boston) and change of pace, learning about local traditions and members of local government, and finding out where the cool places are to spend your free time.

"A lot of people when they [move] just don't know how to handle not being in their element and it makes them uncomfortable. They're completely out of control of their entire life. They have no control and you have to be willing to let go of that control," Annette says.

Change is good
Kerri Berney, 22, who moved to Los Angeles from New Jersey to find a career in film, believes the adjustment can be fun and sometimes even surprising. "People move much slower out here. I always thought that was just an old wives' tale. But it's true," she says with a laugh. "Also, they can't cross streets and they don't use their signals while driving."

According to Suzie Elkin, 30, who spent a year in Madrid teaching English, it is imperative for people who relocate--especially internationally--to be open to other people's culture. "You need to remember that it is not your country," she advises. "You need to respect that it can be uncomfortable, especially if you don't understand the language."







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