Life Lessons: Moving Halfway Across the World

Written by: Shin Kitane/Saturday, Aug 13, 2016 06:06 AM

In this heartwarmingly honest account, guest blogger Pat Somera shares her journey of starting a new life in a foreign country. After two and a half years of working as a bank officer, she realized something had to change. So she said goodbye to a stressful nine-to-five desk job and did what most of us only dream of: she planned the ultimate adventure and made it happen.

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Photos and words by Patricia Somera

It feels so surreal when I start comparing where I am right now versus where I was a year ago. In a span of eight months, I quit my corporate job and left the Philippines with a one way ticket to Denmark. I basically abandoned my old life, packed up my belongings, said my goodbyes to the people who matter, and moved to a country that I knew so little about.  All of these, I did alone.

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Now, it’s been a whirlwind six months since I’ve set up a new life here in Denmark. Yet, when I wake up in the morning, go to the grocery, bike along the streets, interact with the kids, walk around the neighborhood, have dinner with my amazing host family, take the metro, and see lots of tall and blonde people, I still say to myself: “Do I actually live here now?”

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Never will I forget that moment when I arrived at Copenhagen airport. I was excited, dizzy and exhausted.  I had traveled 6,000+ miles across a few continents, had not showered for almost 24 hours, had not eaten anything but two chocolate bars from Swiss Airlines, and then suddenly here I was--in a massive airport somewhere in Northern Europe freezing my ass off.  “Welcome to the world’s happiest nation," according to the sign that greeted me on my way out.

From there on, everything went crazy and my life was never the same again.

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My mind is still in limbo at the moment as I try to absorb everything that has happened over the last couple of months:

  • being an au pair and living with a Danish family who welcomed me with open arms into their lives (Editor's note: As an au pair, Pat is entitled to free language classes, accommodation, and a monthly allowance. To help her host family, she ocassionally babysits or does light household chores with her foster mom.)
  • getting to know my new “home” and immersing myself in a new culture
  • building a social life from scratch
  • going to language school and attempting to learn Danish
  • experiencing below zero temperature
  • seeing seasons change from winter to spring to summer
  • touching and feeling snow for the first time
  • traveling outside of Denmark and stepping foot in five other European countries

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1. Moving abroad is both terrifying and exhilarating.

You start to see yourself as a strange person in a strange land. The culture is different, the people look different, you don’t understand the language, you don’t know anyone. From dealing with paper works to navigating your way through the city, not knowing which bus or train to take--you become ignorant of almost everything. Nothing looks familiar to you and to quote one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, “Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

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2. You'll get homesick--it's okay.

I’ve come across a bunch of people saying that I’m lucky that I get to live in a foreign country and have the freedom to do whatever it is that I want, but hate to disappoint, moving abroad is not all rainbows and unicorns. Yes, I’m having the time of my life, but from time to time, I couldn’t help but miss the familiarity. I miss seeing familiar faces and be around familiar people. I miss my family and my friends, the people who know me better than I do, the people who’ve seen me at my best and worst. I miss getting a hug or a kiss from them. I miss feeling the warmth of their hands. I miss having someone to share a good/bad experience with. I miss my mom, my brothers, our old house, our pet dog. I miss attending birthday parties, small get togethers, family reunions, impromptu dinners, random celebrations.

Do I feel like I made a huge mistake? That it was a selfish choice? Absolutely not. While it sucks to be away from people that I love, to deal with things alone, and to feel a pang of homesickness, I’d like to believe that walking out from my old life and starting a new one far from everything and everyone I know is one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.

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3. Traveling alone is one of the best ways to explore the world.

I love being a foreigner and a tourist. I love meeting people from all walks of life. I love drinking in bars alone and ending up sharing my life stories with a stranger. I love learning a new language. I love getting on a plane and be in a totally new country within an hour. I love sitting in outdoor cafes and beer gardens while enjoying the sunlight. I love taking the metro and see people talking to one another, reading books or newspapers or tinker with their phones. I love getting lost in streets and discovering new places. And most importantly, I love the invaluable life lessons that living abroad have taught me.

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4. Living alone teaches you a lot about life, love, and yourself.

Most importantly, I love the invaluable life lessons that living abroad has taught me: 

That it’s okay to talk to strangers. That experiences don’t always have to be good. That feelings don’t always have to be mutual. That Facebook messenger is one of this century’s greatest inventions. That getting “I miss you” and “I love you” messages can instantly tear you up when you're away from loved ones. That I can survive not eating rice for a month. (I'm a Filipina, of course it was a challenge!) That eating salad for dinner is not so bad. That not having a credit card is the best. That it’s bad to mix beer and wine because you’ll wake up feeling like you got hit by a truck. That getting sick inside the train is so embarrassing.

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That dancing in concerts is crazy fun. That getting a hug from kids makes me want to cry. That eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream on a Sunday night is good for the soul. That losing my resident card was really stupid. That modern dating is so screwed up. That crying, even in public places, is a great way to release anxiety. That fries with mayonnaise is really good. That an umbrella is used as protection from the rain, not the sun. That prayers work. That I’m blessed to have a selfless mother. That it’s important that I remind myself everyday how lucky I am to call Denmark my new home. That I can take care of myself. That I can handle tough times and still choose to be a loving person at the end of a day.

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This journey has been nothing but a roller coaster ride and I am sure as hell enjoying every minute of it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Patricia Somera is a 20-something Philippine passport holder now living in the world's happiest nation.  She shares her adventures and vomits her thoughts on noitineraries.wordpress.com

 

About Shin Kitane
Shin Kitane writes to remember and believes that words have the power to heal, inspire, and move others. She dreams of a world where men and women are treated equally, where race, gender, and religion are not measures of one's worth in society. She is also a book-hoarder and a firm believer in re-watching Mean Girls and Harry Potter multiple times a year. Follow her misadventures @shinkitane on social media.
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