From my heavily curated and filtered Instagram, it may seem like my life living abroad in London is pure fantasy. Traipsing about pastel houses in Notting Hill, cupcakes for breakfast in Belgravia, or brunch high in the London skyline, while all very photogenic, are not the entire picture. For example, I’m currently laying in bed with pinkeye (hello, Quasimodo), watching obscene amounts of How to Get Away with Murder, and nursing my ego over a few job application rejections. Not quite so Kate Middleton glamorous.
I just want to keep it real like JLO and make it clear that life living abroad isn’t all jetsetting and the social media-worthy fabulous lifestyle. Same goes with deciding to make the move. Don’t get me wrong, my life in London overall is a dream come true (you can read more about why I decided to move abroad here), but that doesn’t mean I impulsively decided to move here with absolutely no hesitations. To be honest, I was scared shitless.
Some of these fears may seem silly, and some are quite serious and petrifying, but they are all real. I thought I’d share them with you as well as how they’ve faded or evolved since actually moving abroad. If you’re considering a move to London or another country, I’d highly recommend it. Just know, it’s totally sane to be a bit terrified. You aren’t alone.
Will I be crippled with homesickness?
Confession. I’m a bit of a homebody. Kind of embarrassing for a 26 year old, but I just really love my family and being at home with them. Maybe a little too much for my own good. While this close bond is great, I was worried I’d constantly feel the pull of the States and my family tugging at my heart. I do miss them every day, but luckily London and my life here has kept me occupied enough to prevent me from diving too far down a homesickness rabbit hole. It sounds simple, but by getting busy and creating a life in your new home, you’re less likely to let your mind wander to a darker, sad place.
Does it look like I’m avoiding responsibility?
Back to the being 26 thing again. While I know I’m still very young, quite a few of my friends seem a bit ahead of me in the rat race. They’re getting married, climbing the corporate ladder, buying houses, getting pregnant (YIKES), all in all just being better at this adulting thing than me. Yes, sometimes I do feel a little old to be back in school. Living in a student residence with 18 year olds vomiting in the elevator will do that to you. I am, however, glad I went to grad school after working for a few years. This is going to sound bleak, but you honestly appreciate it much more when you realize that the slog of working day in and day out is literally for the next 50 years. If I went to grad school right after undergrad, I don’t think I would have appreciated this break from “real life” as much as I do now.
Will there be a terrorist attack?
Well, that escalated quickly. The year I was deciding to attend grad school in Europe, the attacks in Paris, Nice, Istanbul and Brussels happened. Europe seemed to be aflame with terrorism. But, attacks in Orlando and San Bernandino also happened that same year. Frankly and very sadly, in open society, terrorism can happen anywhere – whether it’s the Louvre, a Christmas market or a shopping mall. Have I thought twice about travelling to France since moving here? Sadly, yes. However, I feel very safe in London, and if God forbid, something happened here, it is a large enough city where hopefully the odds would be in my favor to not be in the exact attack location (that was a very depressing sentence to write). Terrorism is a very real and too frequent occurrence in our world, and I’ve decided to not let it dictate my ambitions. Life is too short, and I refuse to make decisions out of fear.
Will I be the fat American?
This may seem silly, but everyone in Europe seems so goddamn chic and skinny. Maybe it’s the cigarettes, smaller portions, or walking everywhere, but the stereotypes of thin Europeans versus overindulgent, heavier Americans sadly seems true. Yes, there are fat people in England, but they seem certainly far less common in London than in Midwestern America. I was terrified of being the fattest person in London and desperately attempted and failed to lose weight before moving. Honestly, it kind of sucked when I first got here. I was out of shape and out of breath from walking a few miles to and from school each day. I felt huge compared to the infinitely more stylish and effortlessly cool European girls. And I sure as hell didn’t fit into those dope high-waisted mom jeans at Zara. However, slowly I’ve lost weight. I walk over 10,000 steps most days here and the smaller portion sizes have been a godsend. Most of all, my next meal isn’t the only thing I look forward to every day. There is so much to experience in London beyond eating out and getting satisfaction from food, and I’ve been much healthier phsyically and mentally for it. I may have arrived the fat American, but I won’t leave that way.
How will I make any friends?
Real talk: making friends as an adult is hard. What if my coworkers are all 40 and older? Do I awkwardly dance up to groups of young adults at happy hour? Does anyone normal actually use Bumble BFF? When I moved to LA right after undergrad, I struggled to meet people. At one point, I’d even window shop at Forever 21 just to have human interaction with the salespeople. #foreveralone. I did eventually make friends in LA, but it was damn difficult. Moving to London and meeting people has been much easier. Part of this has been due to putting myself out there more, but this ease has primarily come from attending school. Moving somewhere for school is honestly the best way to make friends. You’ll be in a target-rich environment of young people who are also usually in an entirely new city and desperate for a social life. You can be that social life! If you’re interested in moving halfway around the world, definitely explore grad school as an option.
What if I love it and can’t stay?
Remember those job application rejections I mentioned above? My fear of loving London and being forced to leave it has only strengthened since moving here. I LOVE it here. I feel alive in this city and truly like I’ll never get tired of it. Unfortunately, the climate toward immigration isn’t so hot here right now (is it anywhere?), so finding a job that will sponsor my work visa has been quite the exercise in discipline and determination. Only time will tell if I can find a job that will allow me to stay here, so I’m trying to force myself to make the most of it while I can. That means as soon as my deformed eye is healed, it’s back to soaking up every inch of this dazzling city.
Are you considering moving abroad or have you? What did you fear or what’s holding you back?
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