What to Expect In Your First Year Abroad

This is another post from the “Stories from the West” project which I am doing with Dixie. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, to give you a glimpse of our lives as new immigrants in our respective countries. This month’s topic is about “first experiences” and I am sharing a summary of my first year in the US. Read Dixie’s here and hope you’ll enjoy our stories! 🙂

Just like that, my first year in the US has passed. Even so, I still remember my first day clearly. R and I were very tired from our long journey, but I was excited to start our lives together. I remember the crisp yet fresh winter air that I felt the moment I stepped foot outside the airport. At that moment, it felt so refreshing and it got me so excited. Adventure awaits! So I thought.

Anyway, you are welcome to see a glimpse of my first year abroad on Instagram with hashtag #ChristasFirstYear. For this post, I am going to share a few things that you may expect in your first year abroad – based solely on my own experience 🙂 

Home 🙂

Discovering New Things About Yourself

When you move abroad, you are going out of your comfort zone, and you will discover new things about yourself. As for me, I discovered a new fondness of cooking! It took me a while to get some recipes right and just this holiday season I had the courage to cook for other people besides R 🙂 To my surprise, it was a hit! At the moment I only have two things in my “repertoire” – kastengel (Dutch – Indonesian cheese cookies) and macaroni schotel, but now I’m more confident to try different recipes. I never thought I’d love cooking this much because my cooking used to be pure survival – I cook just so I don’t starve myself 😛

Homesickness

I’m sorry to say this to you, but homesickness is inevitable. I have experienced it and it was ugly. Funny enough, it didn’t happen right away. In fact, it happened to me after a good couple of months living here. I thought I managed to adapt well, I thought I was doing ok until it happened all of a sudden. It took me a while to realize that all this time I have been feeling bits of homesickness but I tried to push it away. Then boom! it hit me, and it hit me hard. If I could turn back time and speak to myself in the past, I would definitely say that I need to embrace whatever feelings I had – the good and the bad. Perhaps this way I would be able to deal with homesickness better. 

Friendship

In Indonesia, making new friends was easy for me. I have friends that I have known forever, I have friends at work, and I also have friends that I know from other friends ;). Here, making new friends is not as easy – I felt like I’m always gonna be the “new girl” because of my immigrant status. Even though R has close-knit friends that I love as well, I felt that I still need to make new friends, so I used to come to a lot of different Indonesian group meetings just to meet new friends, but I couldn’t seem to blend in. It took me a while to realize that I don’t need a lot of friends. I’m happy and content with our close-knit friends. They are family, and I know for sure that we got each other’s back 🙂

Self – Love

Moving and navigating yourself through changes are not easy. Give yourself credit for taking that leap of faith and leave the comfort of your home country! The first year can be tough, but it can be exciting too. There will be a lot of firsts – like your first holiday season, first road trip, first this and first that. Things may be different for everyone – you might be thriving already, you might be still adjusting, you might find it easy to adapt, or you might still be struggling with all the change. Whatever your condition is, one thing that I know for sure is that you got to give yourself some loving. This will help you to make sense of your surroundings better and ease the adaptation process in your first year!

If you have lived abroad for more than one year, what was your first year like? Did you experience the things I mentioned above? I would love to read your stories in the comment box! 🙂

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26 thoughts on “What to Expect In Your First Year Abroad”

  1. My first year in Sweden is harder than I’d expected. Lots of paperwork, waiting, and insecurities. But it does get better. Making new friends is hard, lucky you to have close-knit ones there 🙂. As for homesickness, I don’t feel homesick that often, except when I’m sick. That’s when I wish I were in Indonesia, having comforting bubur ayam and my mom’s homemade soup.

    1. You know what, I craved for bubur ayam too when I was at my lowest and felt really homesick! :/ I hope you’ll be able to pass your first year (and next years after) well Dixie 🤗 we’ll survive and we’ll grow! 💪🏼

  2. Bulan ini, tepatnya akhir bulan, sudah 4 tahun aku tinggal di Belanda. Dan belum sama sekali pulang ke Indonesia. Antara kerasa ga kerasa. Yang pasti tantangan tahun pertama di Belanda adalah tentang bahasa dan cuaca. Meskipun orang Belanda sangat welcome berbicara menggunakan bahasa Inggris, tapi tetap aku harus belajar secara serius bahasa Belanda. Jadi tahun pertama di Belanda aku isi dengan kursus bahasa Belanda, ikut berbagai macam kegiatan sukarela dan mendapatkan pekerjaan. Dengan banyak kegiatan seperti itu membuat aku ga merasa homesick. Kendala kedua cuaca di Belanda yang duh tantangannya ampun dije, cepat berubah. Meskipun sekarang sudah lumayan bisa menyesuaikan, tapi tetep kalau naik sepeda kehujanan plus lawan angin kencang, rasanya pengen ada tukang becak lewat atau bisa naik ojek haha.

    1. Wah Den, nggak kerasa ya sudah 4 tahun… aku inget pertama kali baca blog kamu kayaknya kamu antara baru mau pindah atau baru pindah ke Belanda gitu deh. Aku nggak kebayang kalau harus belajar bahasa baru Den, makanya salut sama perantau yang harus belajar bahasa baru… Ngomong2 soal cuaca, pas baru pindah ke Inggris, aku pernah sampe rumah nangis kejer soalnya pas pulang jalan kaki dari kampus keujanan, payung sampe rusak hahahaha… untungnya kalau di Amerika sekarang gak mengalami kendala cuaca hehe

  3. It gets easier as it goes, I know how cliché that might sounds.

    Aku masuk tahun ke 13 di Denmark tahun 2019 ini: missing home? Not so much, missing Indonesian food? jelas, tapi sudah tidak seperti awal2, ya kalau pas pengen banget bikin, klo ngga ya dialihkan perhatiannya pake yang lain2…. it’s a blessing makanan disini udah mulai macem2.

  4. Making friends in the US is always the tricky one for me. Even though I’ve been here for 7 years, this still makes me questioning? Am I being too friendly, am I too cold? I don’t know why, it doesn’t come organically the way I usually do in Indonesia or other places I’ve been. But hey, after all some people stays, some goes, and a close circle is more fulfilling and easier to maintain 🙂

    1. That’s exactly what I thought too! Anyway after a while I figured that I’m happy with our small circle 🙂 jadi sekarang gak ngoyo lagi cari temen baru….

  5. I really love reading all your stories living abroad. I guess it’s never easy (even when you have lived abroad before ya kan!) but of course it will get better (that I’m sure as long as we are open to new challenges ;)) When I lived abroad I used to think that I wouldn’t get homesick and pretend to be all strong but of course I still miss home. I miss talking to my family most, thank goodness for technology (but of course time difference sucks haha)!

    1. You’re right Aggy, I thought this time will be easier but turns out it’s not because the circumstances are different… but as you said, it will get better 🙂 and I’m so thankful for technology! Can’t imagine doing it in the old days….

  6. Bulan ini sudah 8 bulan aku tinggal di Skandinavia. Awalnya gak punya teman sama sekali. Untungnya ikut kursus bahasa dan bisa bertemu teman sebaya. Sekarang juga sudah banyak teman Indonesia. Yang paling dirindukan selain mama di rumah yah pasti, masakan Indonesia hehe
    Mungkin Christa belum ketemu aja ya sama teman yang cocok, aku juga banyak teman tapi belum sampai dekat sekali karena aku juga masih sebentar di sini.

    1. Wah kita sama2 baru merantau ya itungannya, iya tadinya aku ngoyo cari teman banyak kayak di Indonesia, tapi lama2 aku pikir ah ngapain, aku udah punya grup kecil yang kayak sodara sendiri, itu aja cukup 🙂 semoga kamu juga akhirnya ketemu yang bener2 dekat ya 🙂

      1. Iya bener banget 😊 memang lebih baik sedikit tapi nyaman, dari pada banyak tapi gak deket. Sama2, semoga betah dan happy selalu 😊

  7. Indeed. The first year is usually the most “difficult” and “colorful” one Chris, mainly because one is usually still trying to settle. Once settled, things usually get “easier” and become part of the daily flow 😀 .

  8. I never really live abroad, and the longest time I was out of Indonesia was three months (after three months traveling across the country) when my best friend and I left our jobs to travel, retracing parts of the old spice route. However, at one point I started missing Jakarta, a feeling I had never felt before. That was when I realized that I can never be one of those modern ‘nomads’ who can travel for years.

  9. Olaa sist,

    I’m a kepoan person about Western life, I love to watch how Indonesian live at oversea in youtube i’m so shock to see there are so many Indonesian women marry western, and i also love reading blog especially when the blog post talking about their life at west country, I always thought they have good life, I hope one day i could steep my foot there.. hehe

    Cheers,

  10. Sama banget, Chris.. bisa masak haha.. Secara waktu masih di Jakarta, yah kalau dirumah, yang masak si mama, kalau nggak, yah makan diluar.. Adaptasi sama lingkungan yang sepi, dan aku betah untungnya.. So far, lumayan enjoy dan survive.. Good luck for you tooo…

  11. Taa…br ngikutin lg blognya 😃
    ih baca cerita n postingan first year jd bikin nostalgia masa2 awal dulu 😚 entah kenapa tahun pertama gue kayanya ga ngerasa homesick sama sekali, mungkin krn gue masih honeymoon phase ya, trus lg semangat2nya mengeksplor dan ketemu temen2 baru.. Paling berasa homesick itu pas gue hamil, bawaannya sedih mellow kangen makanan indo, trus mulai menjadi2 pas ngalamain sendiri rasisme sm nemuin org2 yg benci Islam 😢 sedih deh, sampe skrg punya anak dan makin sadar akan kenyataan bakal ngebesarin anak dlm lingkungan minoritas, jd pengen balik ke Indo aja rasanya 😭

    1. Haii Taaa! thanks for sharing yaaaa 🙂 sama kayaknya gue juga gak homesick pas awal2 karena masi kebawa hepi honeymoon phase kali ya hehehe. Huhuuu sorry that it happened to you Taaa… moga2 sih gak bakal ngerasain lagi rasisme sama nemuin orang2 yg benci Islam yaa.. ❤

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