When I look back, I realize there were some major questions I didn’t even consider before moving abroad, because I didn’t know what questions I needed to ask. I had a hunger to see the world, I wanted to do something meaningful and my main thought was “It’s now or never, so I’m doing it.” I learned a lot along the way and answered what I needed to as things occurred. Since I am flexible, I adapted to the culture and life abroad pretty well. However, that isn’t the case for everyone. If I could go back, here are five questions that I would have started with.
What is your purpose/reason for going?
Is it for a new job? Is it to break away from the 9-5 and live a life of adventure? Is it your spouse or significant other who has to relocate for work and you’re obligated to go? Is it to learn a new culture, language or people group?
There are so many possible reasons and everyone has a unique story. Everyone will experience an international move differently. This is going to determine a lot of your next steps and answers to other questions, so having your purpose for moving abroad clear from the get-go will serve you really well as you prepare to go.
What is your experience with moving/major life change and how have you dealt with it in the past?
Often times our past can be a pretty good predictor of the future. If you’ve really struggled with change in the past, you are likely to struggle with change again. On the other hand, if you grew up with change as the only constant in life, then you’re likely to adapt much faster. We all vary when it comes to how flexible we are. Think about how you have handled things before. When it comes to coping with change, what do you do well? What do you not do so well?
What is your experience with diverse people groups?
Did you grow up in a town where a majority of your community came from the same ethnic, socioeconomic and professional background as you? If the answer is yes, you’re not unusual. People naturally tend to flock towards those who are similar to them. Maybe you’re not very comfortable around people from different cultures, because you don’t know how you are supposed to behave. On the other hand, maybe you grew up in a global city and there isn’t an ethnic food left you haven’t tried and loved. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, consider how you will do living among a group of people who think, behave, speak and live very differently than you. What will it take for you to adjust to a different way of life?
Who do you already know that lives where you are going?
Are you taking this step of faith alone, with friends, with a partner or with your whole family? Is there anybody that you already know that lives in the location you’re relocating to? When I first moved to Turkey, I moved with a few friends and one had already been living there for a year longer than I had. In my first few months, her wisdom, guidance, and encouragement made my adaptation to life overseas so much smoother. If you don’t know anyone yet, find expat Facebook groups to join located in your new city and seek out local clubs you can join that are related to your hobbies, work or values. Developing community right away is important. You’re going to need a lot of help adjusting to your new life! Now is not the time to “do it all yourself.” Be humble and call your friend to take you to the dentist/doctor/realtor/post office.
What do you hope to gain or accomplish from living overseas?
This brings us back around to question number one, but even if you’ve moved for work, that doesn’t mean you can’t have other hopes or goals for your time abroad! Do you want to become fluent in the language? Do you want to travel the countryside? Do you want to make a handful of close local friends? Do you want to try coffee at every cafe in the city? All of these things are possible! But you need to think about what you want to accomplish, how you’re going to do it (step-by-step, people), and who you want or need by your side while you’re doing it. You could do it alone, but it’s more fun to do it with others. So, set your goals and reach for the sky!
Obviously, moving overseas is a huge decision. There will be more than 5 questions that you will ask yourself throughout the process. However, I hope this short list gives you a good place to start! What else would you ask yourself, or tell someone to ask themselves before moving overseas?
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