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I Chose To Live In Another Country And It Changed My Life

If you can, do it. It could be 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years. However long it takes to go from uncomfortable to confident, while genuinely absorbing everything in between.

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From the moment I was born until the age of 16, I had lived in the same small town in the American Midwest. My parents found a job in Dallas, TX so we picked up and moved the summer before my junior year of high school. Little did I know that was the catalyst to a life of nomadic decisions.

At the point of graduation, I decided to attend college in New York and my parents took a job in India. No, I didn’t mean to say Indiana so yes, like the country (that bit of information will be important later). After two years there I decided, for financial reasons, to transfer schools back to Ohio. At this point my parents had been in India for three years and they decided it was time to return to the states. That, once again, effected my decision to transfer schools for second time. This time to Seattle, Washington. (I’ll eventually write another post about this whole transferring thing one day, let’s just say I feel you transfer students).

Anyway… safe to say I’m no stranger to being the new kid. This is one of the many reasons I decided to spend my last summer as an undergrad in a foreign country. No surprise to those that know me, but that country was India. This is where my parent’s history comes into play.

Through some friends they gained while living in New Delhi, I was able to land an internship/volunteer position with a startup company in the southern state of Kerala. Now while I had been to India on two other occasions, this was different because I was going for 3 months instead of 3 weeks and I would be going alone.

I’d be lying if I said every single moment was amazing, especially in the beginning. Most people back home would think the issues stemmed from an intense culture shock or at least the change in diet giving me trouble. It really was neither of those things. It was more complicated than that.

It was much more about feeling like I had to depend on other people for everything and not being on a level with those around me to feel comfortable to do so. Being the independent spirit that I am, if I can, I would much rather take care of things for myself. Living in a country where you don’t speak the same language and you don’t know your way around (yet) can make that pretty impossible (once again, especially in the beginning). I keep saying “in the beginning” because that’s when most of my reservations consumed me, even though most of me knew they just needed time to fade away.

The company I came to work for was great about setting me up with people that would help me get around, but I tried to make it a priority to take some of that burden off of them. On one hand, I felt completely taken care of because all of the right things had been done to make me feel as much at home as possible, but on the other hand I felt emotionally isolated for the first week or so because I realized I was the only one of the group in my exact situation. This was nothing any exterior force could have fixed. It was something I just needed to process. I couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t reverse it. I had to conquer it.

Everyone has their own timeline in regards to “conquering” their challenges, but when you do (because you will if you stick with it) it usually turns out to be one of the best experiences in your life. That summer in India still is for me.

After I was able to chip away at my false insecurities and inaccurate doubts, I returned to being myself. The only differences were the 8,000 miles and what you might call an opposite cultural environment.

I was no stranger to adjusting to new situations, so I mistakenly thought living in another country would be a piece of cake. Not true…at least this first time around. I grew so much and learned an incredible amount about how strong I can be when I decide that success is the only option. Not to mention I was living and working in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I experienced things that I never could have imagined outside of the movie version of my life. I met and bonded with people from totally different backgrounds that I fully expect to be friends with for life.

In my short time on earth I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to foreign countries a number of times, but that summer shaped me permanently. When you take a vacation for a week somewhere you get a preview of what life is like in that country, but you don’t walk away with it firsthand. You get to eat the local food and walk the historic streets, but you don’t have to rely on them day in and day out. You get to see the sights that make that place famous, but you don’t necessarily get to meet the people that keep it up and running.

I didn’t choose to be the new kid when this whole journey started back in my junior year of high school, but sometimes I think we should. I chose to live India because I know firsthand the immense profit we gain from exciting situations once we overcome those insecurities of feeling isolated. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t necessarily gets easier each time, we just get stronger.

Again, this is not say that everyone needs to move to South Asia, but I can tell you navigating through such a circumstance is one of the sharpest ways to grow as an individual and as a global citizen. We learn so much from immersing ourselves in different cultures because it exposes us to the truth that at the heart of it we are so similar. We’re human, we have a story, and we all seek for some to listen.

If you’re thinking about doing something like moving to another country, even for just a short amount of time…try it out. It might even exceed all your expectations.

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