Blog Carnival: Feeling At Home While You’re Abroad
Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Sharon Couzens. I’ll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog at the start of every month, and the carnival is always published on the 5th by that month’s host. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will let you know how you can start participating!
Before making the leap to live and work abroad my home life was very important to me. I am from a big family and have such an amazing group of friends around me back home that there were times when I thought I was absolutely mad to even be thinking of embarking on a year long journey in another country. However, I made the leap all the same. I knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be an easy year living abroad and one of the biggest challenges was going to be homesickness. But it was something that I just knew that I not only wanted, but needed to do for myself.
I thought the beginning would be the hardest, but I actually found that this was the easiest, I was barely even thinking about family and friends back home (sorry guys) whilst I had all of this new stimuli coming at me. Literally every second from when you step out of your front door is new information, new ways of looking at things, unavoidable cultural insights, new people, smells, sounds, new everything!
It took a few months until the gut wrenching pull of home came in, this can be a scary time, it’s like you finally realize that ‘oh, this isn’t a vacation, this is a year of my life, how did I only just figure this out?’ luckily I had some good friends around me to talk to me and tell me that this is just a normal natural feeling that pretty much most people go through, it’s just a bit of culture shock.
Once I had gotten the dreaded culture shock out of the way I felt like I could start to try to formulate some kind of routine in this new culture where everything is different.
I feel like once I got past the 6 month mark I started to feel a lot more comfortable in my surroundings. After 6 months I was a little more comfortable in my use of the local language, I stopped feeling like I stick out like a sore thumb and actually blend in to the daily goings on in Taiwan. At this point I was more familiar with Taipei; I had also explored further and looked around the island, with confidence.
What I have come to realize is that I have had a shift in my idea of what is home. It is no longer a fixed location or a place I visit for comfort, it is something that travels with you, you carry it wherever you go. Of course nothing will remotely compare to actually being at home, which my recent trip back to the UK showed me, but the feeling of home can be placed down and rooted anywhere on this planet, it just take a little time and nurture.
Contrary to my original one year plan, I have now been in Taiwan almost 3 years and I can say without a doubt that this is where I have set roots down to call home (for the time being). I have a good steady job, a loose routine which generally involves working and seeing friends during the week and then going out on adventures at the weekend, I even have 2 pet cats.
In answer to this month’s topic I would say that it was somewhere between the 6 month mark to a year of being abroad where I finally felt at home. I would say it is likely different for everybody else, but for me, this is when ‘home’ set in.
And now over to you readers, are you currently living abroad, how long has it taken you to settle in and obtain that feeling of ‘home’? Leave a comment in the section below.