This time last year was a very bitter-sweet time for me. On one hand, I was sad because I was graduating from college, leaving a place where I’d spent the last three years of my life. On the other hand, a part of me was top-of-the-world happy because a new phase of my life was about to begin.
I was anxious about what lay outside of that comfort zone between home to college and back, and I was overwhelmed with the memories I had made at this place. Moreover, it was difficult to imagine life without some of my closest friends and my family. My transition from an overly protected younger child in the house to someone who could take control of her own life wasn’t exactly easy.
I had received admission offers from my top priority schools and my dream of studying abroad finally felt like it could come true. Until May last year, I was under the impression that my life is going to change and everything will be sorted very soon. I had my admission offers and all that was left was to pack my bags and go.
Sounds easy, right? Not quite. My journey of learning lessons started much before the actual ‘moving abroad’ bit happened and continued after. While there are countless things that the past eight months away from home, in a different country have taught me, here are a few important ones:
In more ways than one, moving out has helped me find my own identity. I grew up with an elder sister and often found myself in her shadows consciously or subconsciously. The experience of living by myself and being responsible for all things big and small – from what to eat for the next meal, to how much money to spend this month – has really helped me detach my personality from hers and be confident about my choices being my own – independent of her or anyone else’s influence. Additionally, I am comfortable in my own skin and confident about what I want from my life. I am unafraid of asking questions – because, one of my first lessons as a postgrad student was ‘no question is stupid’.
It takes a while to settle in, to find your kind of people and adjust to the twenty thousand changes happening around you. What helped me adjust was learning from people’s experiences, and pick up the best of their qualities. You’ll be surprised by how much people you surround yourself with can have a positive impact on you. In the past eight months, I have seen and met people from different walks of life, and I have been in a very culturally diverse environment.
I was lucky to have found the best of people as my flatmates. Of course, having my best friend move to the same city with me (thank the lords) was more than I could ask for, and that has definitely made this experience much easier.
During this process of settling in, I have made my fair share of mistakes. I have chosen wrong, taken the easy way out – probably more than I’d like to admit. But living by myself has also taught me how to hold myself accountable. I have learned how to forgive myself, and pick myself up after a bad day. One of my biggest challenges, which everyone struggles with is being homesick. For me, it is almost a weekly affair. I am extremely grateful for the support that I found in my family and my closest friends. I talk to them often and that helps me feel at home, relatively.
What also helps me cope is keeping myself busy with other things like, dance. I am part of the dance society at my new college, and I often go out for walks around my hostel if I feel too lonely. Of course, I have had my bad days – sometimes weeks too. Those are moments where I remind myself what a friend had told me before coming here: “There’s nothing a Bollywood song cannot fix.”
One way in which moving abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone is that it forces you to be self-reliant. Things which we take for granted at home like food, clothes, cleanliness – we suddenly become responsible for all of that. While I knew my basics of cooking before coming to London, I have become more of an expert only after coming here. I still burn my omelettes, or spill the tea on the stove every now and then – but mostly I am capable of feeding myself (excluding frozen food and Maggi). What I have also learned is that I actually like cooking on most days and find it recreational. I also enjoy trying new recipes and eating them (that’s a little risky, but equally worth it when you get it right). I have also learned other life hacks like how to stitch buttons, washing clothes, cleaning bathrooms and dealing with a spider in your room. Not all of them have been as fun as cooking!
I grew up dreaming about the life abroad and what it would feel like. Bollywood, like in most cases, did not help – I had exaggerated the impact it would have on my life, and how great it would feel. I had this idea that I’d get a grand welcome like Rohan from K3G when he first arrived in London.
And that’s probably where a lot of you might be today. If that’s what you are looking for, it’s time you know that is only a very small part of the experience. Mostly, it’s processed in which you must be prepared to make a lot of hard choices. Giving up on eating out, spending money on shopping every month, buying new stationery as a source of motivation – are probably some of the things you might not be able to do. You’ll always feel that there’s not enough money, and there’s no easy way to say that.
My first night abroad was lonely and hard – it meant sleeping on a bare mattress, using my jacket as a pillow, eating a cold sandwich after having dragged my three suitcases across the hostel. I have had a good mix of those hard nights when I had no idea what I was doing here and the ones where I felt like I fit right in, and this is where I am meant to be.
Making a decision can be extremely taxing – with all the stress, anxiety and pressure of figuring your life out; and so I hope this helps a little bit. If you think you are ready for all of the above challenges, which is probably the only thing I was sure of when I first decided to come across the continent – then maybe this is for you. Moving abroad was not the magic wand that I thought I needed for adulthood (I am still looking for that!) – but I wouldn’t do it any other way.