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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My 2018

Today’s December 31st and here I am sitting down comfortably at the house. I don’t have any plans for tonight’s New Years Eve but I will be spending it with family 🙂 I always miss my family in Indonesia more during the holiday season but I’m hopeful that we can be reunited soon!

I just decided that hope is my word for 2019. I am hopeful and holding on to hope. Things have not been as good as I wanted in 2018, but only today I got to be reminded of hope. There is really no reason for me not to be hopeful and keep my faith because all this time God has been so good to me and my family. Anyway, here are my 2018 in retrospect.

January – We had a car accident the second day I arrived in the US and we had to let go of our car 😦 so, we made our first big purchase as a family this month! There were also other firsts this month for me… I re-learned how to cook (I was able to cook during my UK days but it was pretty much a grad student survival cooking :P), learned to make my own latte and smoothies, and started to pay attention to skincare! I also went to Passion Pit concert which was great. Unfortunately, this was also the month where I lost my aunt due to her illness 😦 may she RIP.

February – This month was quite busy for us – we had our cousin visiting from Indonesia for their honeymoon, and at the same time we also had a mini staycation as a belated wedding gift from our family. This month was the month I started to get to know my neighbourhood better – I learned to navigate myself around and get used the public transportation system. February was the coldest month, but the family made it warmer.

March – I realised that I have started to gain weight since I moved here, so I started to exercise more regularly. I joined a local gym to take PoundFit classes and I loved it! However, I stopped going after a month because they change their class schedule and it does not fit mine :\ I should stop making excuses and go back to this routine next year. On the other hand, we went exploring Los Angeles whenever we got a chance, playing tourist in the big city. I went to museums, gardens, and the beach! I started to fall in love with the city ❤

April – This month started with a HAIM concert with R. I also became a member of the public library in my city and started to read regularly again. I started a Goodreads challenge – 12 books for 2018, knowing I might fail it like past years. But turns out I was wrong! Not only did I manage to finish it, but I also managed to read 22 books in total this year! YAY me! Perhaps I should write a “books of 2018” post sometime this week… hmmm.

May – One of my bridesmaids / best friend came to visit this month and we had so much fun together. I went to stay with her for a couple of nights and it was so refreshing to be able to get a girls getaway like the old days. Another thing that made this month special was Justin Timberlake’s concert! It was a dream come true since I have been a fan since his NSYNC days 😛 We also started the month of Ramadan this month and it was my first time fasting in the US.

June – My brother and sister in law along with aunts and cousins from R’s side came to visit for Eid, making my first Eid here in the US so merry and warm. I missed my family in Indonesia but I am thankful for new experiences this month. With the days that got warmer and longer, we also spent a lot of time at the beach which I had no complaints about. I guess this is one of the perks of living in Southern California!

July – It’s R’s birthday month and went on a couple mini trips. First, we went to Las Vegas for a weekend with our family, then we went to San Francisco to meet my grad school friend who was visiting from New Zealand! It was so good to reunite with her after 8+ years 🙂

August – Summer is officially here and I think I spent most of it at the beach… it’s really a privilege to live close to the beach! I also scored a last minute ticket to Sam Smith’s concert at Staples Centre for only $20. Woohoow! And…. followed by a Smashing Pumpkins’ concert the next day with R. I can say that summer was a blast and I have no complaints.

September – Fall was around the corner and this month I was disappointed for the first time. Despite the delayed good news, I managed to go to my first football game to watch Rams vs Cardinals. Football is a big thing here and although I still don’t understand the game, I enjoyed the atmosphere of watching a live game.

October – I became the coordinator of our friends’ wedding here. It was an Indonesian – American wedding because although both bride and groom are Indonesian, the wedding culture was a mix between both countries. Through this experience, I met new friends and also relive my love of coordinating and organizing things – something that I haven’t done since I am currently taking a break from the corporate world. Ooooh how I can’t wait to go back! 😉 On the downside, I caught a pretty bad cold and it made me very homesick at the same time. It took me a week to recover, can you imagine?!

November – It’s our anniversary month and it’s our first! Yay! how time flies when you are having fun 🙂 we went to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park for our anniversary and we had a good time. I’ll surely post the story here sometime later in the new year. I also celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time with R and our cousins. It’s also the end of #ChristasFirstYear – a project I started on Instagram when I first arrived in the US. Unfortunately this month I also experienced several anxiety issues which I am currently dealing with.

December – My birthday month! Since I finished #ChristasFirstYear project, I took a little break from social media and also started to practice mindfulness more regularly. I found it helpful to tackle my anxiety issues and I started to have a better understanding and awareness of my feelings. I am yet to receive the good news that I have been waiting for, but I am patient and hopeful.

Thank you 2018, Hello 2019 🙂

So there goes my 2018. It has been an eventful year – full of firsts but it is also a challenging one. Adjusting to life in a new country, becoming a wife, dealing with uncertainty… but I am certain that with hardship comes ease and that I am so blessed. ❤

Happy New Year 2019 to you! May you have a blessed year ahead. Thanks for reading and see you in the new year 🙂

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


Christmas is undoubtedly my favourite holiday of the year for obvious reasons (pssst… it’s my birthday! :P). It will be my second Christmas in the US, but only this year I am starting to notice more things about Christmas here because last year’s Christmas was like a whirlwind – I was too busy with moving, adjusting, and everything.

Although I don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, I have been celebrating Christmas all my life. To me, Christmas used to mean family gatherings, which means food, presents, and more food. Here in the US, I began to view Christmas a little bit differently.

As I am celebrating my second Christmas in the US, I can see how everyone is excited about Christmas. People would start to decorate their houses with lights as soon as Thanksgiving passed. Speaking of decorations, they are no joke!

Image from: http://imged.me

Yes, people would decorate their houses like that. Another common thing that people here like to do as Christmas is approaching is buying gifts. I am familiar with gift exchange as I used to do that with my family back in Indonesia, but it seems like Americans give gifts to everyone. Colleagues, friends, family, even the mail lady or your newspaper boy! It’s similar to how THR is during Lebaran in Indonesia, but instead of giving money, it is more common to give a present here.

There is a unique gifting tradition in the US that I just discovered called White Elephant. It is a game where a group of people exchange gifts with one another. However, there is a special rule which lets people steal your gift. So what happens is you gather with your group and each person bring a present that they will swap with each other. Everybody has to open their present in public and the next person has the option to steal the previous person’s present or open a new present. It’s interesting and can be a great party activity especially if played with people that you are close with!

All in all, I can see now that Christmas here means more than just food and extra holiday. It means celebrating the presence of the loved ones in your life – and because Americans like small talks a lot, Christmas can also mean extending your good wishes and positive vibes to everyone that you meet on the street. It can be as simple as saying “Happy Holidays” to the cashier lady in the grocery store or listening to your barista’s holiday plans while she was making your latte 🙂

I hope you are surrounded by warmth and love this holiday season, wherever you are. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sunny California ❤

This post is the first out of a blogging series titled “Stories from the West” which I am doing with Dixie of Her Little Journal blog. We will be writing 1 post each month with the same topic, which revolves around living abroad and settling down in a new country. We are both from Indonesia and we moved to a new country around the same time. She now lives in West of Sweden while I am here in the West Coast of USA, hence the project title 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy our stories, and don’t forget to read Dixie’s here.