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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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.