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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365/365

If you have been following me on Instagram, you might have seen a project that I have been doing for the past year. Started when I arrive in the US a year ago, I put out a picture every day on Instagram with the hashtag #ChristasFirstYear. Well, picture no.365 is still on the draft because I wanted to take a break from Instagram for a bit (posting each day for a year turns out to be a little bit overwhelming), and I also noticed that I have been feeling quite a lot of emotions leading up to day 365! 

You see, I am the type of person who are so used to having plans, checklists, projects, and all that. Every year I like to reflect on my life’s adventures that year and I would expect to see some accomplishments – travel to new places, career related, relationship related, anything that can give me a sense of progression. Unfortunately, as I look back at the past year, at first I found it hard to see that I am progressing this year. 

It made me sad and affected my mood for a couple days, I even had a small breakdown during a video call with my mother and R. I had this urge of wanting to limit contact with my friends in Indonesia because I felt jealous to see how their life is progressing while I felt that mine is not. Poor R did not know what to do, and I did not know what he could do to make me feel better. It wasn’t until I heard my mother’s words that I really get it. 

Life is not always about plans, checklists, projects, progression, and all that. Sometimes life can put you on hold, letting you navigate through it in your current situation. The situation for me is that I am still waiting for my permanent residency, and the chance to finally settle as a resident here. It’s okay. It takes longer than I expected, but it’s okay. 

Come to think of it again, I am being unfair to myself if I think that my life hasn’t been progressing at all this year. The progress may be different than what I planned and projected. But once I was finally able to see the silver lining of my current situation, I can now see the kind of progress that I’ve been making this year. As a newlywed, I have been progressing to become a better partner for my husband. My mother always said that getting married is a lifetime process of learning and understanding, and I think we are moving in the right direction. As a new immigrant, I am progressing too! At least now I can navigate myself through this city that I’m living in and I can definitely take you around Los Angeles if you decided to visit me 😉 And as for myself in general, this year has taught me that I have more patience and strength that I can ever imagine. 

That, my friends, is how I believe my life is still progressing despite everything that is happening 🙂 Thanks for reading and wishing you happy holidays! It’s getting festive here and I hope it is in your place, too 🙂

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