Baby birds depend on their mother in order to survive, they receive all the care and food from their loved one. But as they grow older, gain power in bones and voice, as their puff become feathers, they have to go in search of their own life, by learning to provide for themselves.
Everyone is scared when leaving the nest. In high-school, we all said “I can’t wait to get to college and be rid of my parent’s nagging”, thinking we own the world and everything would work nice and swell. But then, we find ourselves in the middle of the world.
I remember when I left for the first time, from a small and quite town from Romania, Motru, and moved to study at the university in the big city of Bucharest.
I got one hour late for the interview at one of the universities, as I got a little bit lost with the metro and bus. I wasn’t used to getting in one hour to a place, when in my hometown I got in 10 minutes to high-school. I felt small and scared at the view of the city eating me up. But, as I got to know it better, it stopped scaring me and started to amaze me. In less than a year, I stopped being the small person in the great city and started becoming a great person in a great city.
When living abroad, the rules are slightly different, as you have the language barrier, or so they say. I wouldn’t consider it a barrier, but more of a challenge. You get out of your comfort zone and start using your skills. No book can teach you Spanish better than living in Spain for a couple of months. In my twenty-four years of life, I have visited ten countries, twenty-four cities and lived in three of them: Tbilisi (Georgia) Karpathos (Greece) and Palma de Mallorca (Spain), my current home.
I’ve learnt so much in these journeys, about people, cultures, about falling and getting up again, about crying and smiling. At the end of each experience, good or bad, you gain something, after all: no risk, no gain. My first trip abroad was in Georgia, Tbilisi, a country I knew nothing about and I fell in love with the city, the traditional food and the warm people. Georgians have the best cheese pie (chapuli) I’ve ever tasted. A Georgian friend, whom I care deeply about, recommended it to me.
It is very important to make local friends when moving to a new country. So, you will have the best tourism guides for the cultural experience you are embarking on. The feeling of fear and smallness, which I spoke about earlier, does not go away in time. Whenever you enter into the unknown, you will feel a little bit scared, but it will go away in time, as you get to explore the wonders of the city.
Fear of the unknown is in every person, what’s different is the quantity of it. Nobody wants to make a fool of themselves, to go to a country where they do not know the language and to be unable to understand or to be understood. Inter-cultural differences should not be a problem in our educational evolution, but they should be perceived as a mutual gain. There is a beauty underneath the unknown, in every form it presents itself; bad moments become experience to learn from, so, in the future, you will become better and wiser.
The world is full of stereotypes – everywhere in the world exists a person like you, or like your best friend, or like your worst enemy. “You sound familiar” and “you remind me of someone” were the two phrases that always crossed my mind while meeting someone new. Good or bad, safe or dangerous, new or old are concepts encountered in every city, all over the world. The idea of safety when thinking of your hometown is provided by the notion of family and is a feeling that will last for a lifetime, the safeness of the nest.
Another thing that can help you while living abroad is this interesting site I recently discovered www.internations.org which is “connecting global minds”. The purpose of the site is to give you moral support if you live abroad, by providing you information about the cities and countries, having a great variety of groups of interest such as: culture and entertainment, dining & nightlife, sports & leisure, business & networking and others. There are many groups of people who moved in the same city or country as you have and are ready to help you assimilate the change better.
Written by Gabriela Cioată, AEGEE-București