Growing Pains

Authored by:
Maggie W.

Maggie W.

It’s incredibly easy to romanticize living abroad. We post photos on Instagram that make life look perfect- like a dream, even. You post the highs of your time, or anything that may resemble a high. If you strip away all of the picturesque parts of moving abroad you’re left with a challenging reality. Moving abroad sounds freeing- but quite often it can make you feel trapped.

Trapped in a new apartment, trapped in a new culture that is unlike yours, trapped in a city that looks nothing like home, and trapped in a country that resides all the way across the Atlantic Ocean from your own.  If you think about it too much, it starts to feel claustrophobic.

I’ve lived abroad before, although only for four months, and it was challenging then as well. Getting used to a new culture, a host family, and a language I could barely speak was incredibly exhausting.

I’m living abroad again, but this time I’m on my own. There’s no family to take care of me, to show me the ins and outs of living in Spain. I’m providing for myself, buying dish soap in a foreign country, and creating my life as a young professional.

There are times where I wonder why this life ever appealed to me. But the same thoughts crossed my mind when I studied abroad.

See, the reality is this: moving abroad is hard. Incredibly hard. Every day presents a new challenge. Everyday I wake up and have to remind myself that I’m living in Spain. That my family and friends are not here, and that I have to forge my own community in this country. I am reminded that I’m living in a country where my native language is not spoken. I am reminded that things will never be quite as easy as home.

But the growth that comes from that is incredible. And while I can point out the challenges, I have the privilege of returning back home. Of knowing that at some point, I’ll be back where I am most comfortable. A privilege many immigrants are unable to have.

My life here is temporary, but it’s still a life I get to build. People I get to meet, an experience I get to do in my own way. The opportunity to spend a year living abroad is a privilege. The chance to be immersed in a different culture and language is one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. But it doesn’t mean it will be perfect. Or that it won’t be life.

Apply to this program. Move abroad. Find yourself. But never feel down on yourself for finding it challenging. Or if some days, it’s just hard. Because it will be worth it. You will adjust, you will find your community, and you will be better for it all. 

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