Here I am! Happy to be here.
[l’Isère rivière - Grenoble, France]
Perast, Montenegro by: roberto pavic
I moved to France following my undergraduate studies in the States (just this year).
A younger student reached out to me today, to ask this:
Hi there… I know this is completely random, but is it okay if I ask you about your experience of moving abroad? I’m graduating in December and… it would be ideal if I could make Europe my permanent home. However, it seems like… more and more people keep doubting my plans because of the language barriers, expenses, etc. Sorry for the long message, I guess what I’m curious about, is did you ever face any challenges during this transition?
Nothing makes me happier than having positively influenced the people and places from my past. I don’t believe I’ve met the girl who messaged me, but for some reason she was struck to seek out my opinion. For that, I feel proud and empowered, able to empower others. It is through each other that we gain value and meaning.
Here is what I write back to her:
No worries. Of course, moving abroad is asking to be challenged. Actually, it’s not asking. It’s taking a deeeeep breath, before nose-diving into it — it being an unknown deep end, you with your eyes closed and a map in your pocket that too soon becomes soggy and expendable.
Any preparation you can do won’t be enough.Unshakably I can state this: beware that you will be more alone than ever before… That is, before you become aware of a deeper, truer connection with everyone and everything in existence.
Language barrier is a broad understatement. People often ask if I am now/yet “fluent” in French. In a roundabout way, I try to explain how I can converse, but not as well as I wish, sometimes with fluidity, rarely with wit, knowing all too well the painful process of trying to crack a joke in foreign tongue, and finally the fact that I will never, ever be able to speak like someone raised and aged surrounded constantly by French culture. I am forever a foreigner, and in French, foreigner and stranger are the same damn word; L’étrangèr(e) would remain imprinted on my photo-identification for life if I decide to take the plunge and live here permanently.
Language is an infinitely impressive tool, which will repeatedly drill you into a brand new isolation you never knew — until you learn to triumph over it.
Listen closely: the best thing you can do is quell your ego and never be afraid to make mistakes. Make as many as you can as early as possible, it’s the only way to learn and to progress.
Meanwhile, you will struggle to express yourself even in the simplest of terms, and especially in more meaningful ones. You will feel incompetent and may even meet two-year-olds who speak more eloquently. Remind yourself that they have two whole more years experience! Do not fret.
At the start, you will make an idiot of yourself, over one-hundred times each day (if you are seizing it), every day, for months, maybe years. But it will be worth it and here’s why:
Possibilities unfold. You discover your culture’s way of doing things is not the only, and not even the best way. Your life is no longer pre-determined when you set out and find the path forks into so many new directions.
Success becomes defined in much simpler terms. You will burst at the seams with joy over minute jobs done well. And you deserve it! Savor ingredients, sip slower than usual a cappuccino brewed with care, take an idle stroll through public gardens, make small talk at the market, dwell and expand into full-fledged daydreams the almost unnoticeable details of street corner bustlings and imperfections in architecture.
"Losing yourself" becomes "finding yourself." You’ve made the conscious decision to put yourself in a foreign place. It was bold, it was brave, because it was a risk. You won’t find your footing right away, but one day, when the sun wakes you slowly with its warmth, or maybe the moon in its transitions, you will rise to the realization that you were never actually far from home, in fact you never left; home is wherever you are and whenever you feel.
I hope this helps!
Leo Tolstoy was born on this day. (Hooray)
is a real thing, which I love.