Being an expat can be the most amazing experience in the world — and the hardest. From fantastic new friends to feeling far from home, find out just how simultaneously difficult and awesome life abroad can be!
Getting to Travel the World
Why it's the best: I wrote a letter to myself when I was in my early twenties, to be opened in ten years. The decade has yet to pass, but the only thing I remember writing was that I hoped to be well-traveled. And if moving to Europe has given me anything, it has certainly been the ability to travel. I've lost track of how many cities and countries I've been able to visit (before the pandemic hit, at least). With 25+ vacation days per year, as well as reliable/affordable trains, planes, and buses, I've seen more in the past five years than I ever could have if I had stayed in the US.
Why it's the worst: The more you see of the world, the more you want to see. But having the opportunity to travel is also counteracted by wanting to go home. Having to choose between seeing your loved ones and going to a fantastic new place is not an easy decision.
Making New (and International) Friends
Why it's the best: Living in Munich, I've been lucky enough to make friends from around the world. When you live far from your family, friends become your lifelines — they're who you call when you need to move apartments for the fifth time and can't rent a car because your license doesn't transfer. They're the ones calling the tax office on your behalf because your German isn't nearly good enough to understand terms like Einkommenssteuererklärung (income tax return).
Why it's the worst: International friends often leave. It's not easy being the one left behind while all your amazing new besties move away. And while hopefully you've been able to maintain your friendships back home, they can't join you for a drink at your favorite cafe or commiserate with you over the lack of air conditioning in Germany.
Having Amazing Experiences and Expanding Your Worldview
Why it's the best: Since moving abroad I've lost track of the number of times I've had an "oh my gosh, I cannot believe this is my life" moment. Whether it's something as exciting as watching Germany win the World Cup after I first moved to Munich, or simply walking around one of my favorite neighborhoods on a sunny day, hearing people speak German, French, Spanish, and more. Truly experiencing life in a foreign country provides you with so many little moments that make you appreciate it.
Why it's the worst: I'm a very different person than I was before living abroad, thanks in large part to the many experiences I've had and the challenges I've faced. Living abroad has made me see the world differently, and I wouldn't change it for anything. However, the "downside" of going through these changes is that they are difficult to explain to people who haven't had the same experience.
When I'm in Germany I refer to the US as home, but when I'm back in the US I find myself referring to Munich as home. It's both a beautiful and difficult thing to have two homes, like having two best friends that can never connect, that you have met at different points in your life. Each one means something special to you, and you've had experiences with both that you couldn't duplicate with the other.
At the end of the day though, I wouldn't trade the experience I've had living abroad for anything. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to make this choice and to be able to continue to choose this life. And my friends and family have encouraged me more than they'll ever know. So, if you ever get the chance to move abroad, I'd certainly suggest giving it a go!
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