what to expect when you live aborad ?

It’s been two years since I started living in a foreign country, but the experiences I’ve been through are worth the 24 years of my life. What I learnt through this journey made me discover the part of me that was buried by limits, and I LOVE IT.

As International students, our friends back home usually envy us for having the chance to live abroad judging the few instagram stories that we post from time to time, but only the closest persons to us know the struggles we hide behind those random pictures.
I have chosen a few words that describe this journey and for each one I’ll walk you through a little story.

Freedom , pride , Homesick and Discovery .

The best part about living abroad is having the chance to be away from all the restrictions of your local society; their judgments, their unwanted opinions, that one family friend who ends up showing wherever you go, that neighbor who weirdly enjoys stalking you, the annoying personal questions coming from people you barely know such as “ فما حويجة في الثنية” ? (when are you getting married?) and the list goes on.

Being a foreigner in a different country gives you the chance to start from scratch and to be who you really are knowing that no one will judge you for it. For example, in my hometown, I never dared to go to a coffee shop alone because In my mind, I knew that people would judge me, or someone I know will end up joining my table since personal space is something very odd in our culture. Now, going to coffee shops alone has become my favorite meditation.

Living away from your parents and being financially independent will push you to do challenging things that are tiring and exhausting but will eventually make you proud when you look back at them.
Since I came to France, I had 4 different Jobs:

I worked in the weekly supermarket with a Tunisian man making Traditional sweets and bread. Waking up at 4 Am in a 4°C and working for 10 hours non stop.

I taught English to different people, which is the job I enjoyed the most since I got to know amazing students and helping them reach their goals.

I worked In Burger king ending my shift at midnight and walking 5 km to home because there were no buses or starting my shift at 6 Am on a Sunday morning on a snowy day, and of course buses only start working at 7 Am knowing that I was supposed to be studying for my next week’s exams.

And Finally, I worked in an Indian fast food restaurant as a cashier and I have to say pleasing customers is something very hard to achieve.

When I look back to all the hardships I went through, it is not the tears and the sleepless nights that I should remember, but rather the pride of how these experiences helped shape who I’m today by allowing me to know my limits and going beyond them.
I learnt that the best part of the month is when your rent, bills are paid and you have some money left to treat yourself to a fancy meal.

No matter how ready you think you are to be away from your family, you’re not. Leaving your family behind you and accepting that you’ll only see them once or twice a year is something very challenging.

Foreign students and especially those in France know how much of a struggle it is getting used to living in a 9m² ( the size of my room at home ) where your kitchenette is next to your bed.

You realize that all your life you have taken your parents for granted and that a small video call from them is necessary for you to go through the day. You realize that all those family gatherings you hated so much are something you wish to be part of now.

You might actually like the place you live in, it might actually feel like home for you, you will certainly have new friends and meet new people, but nothing will ever replace a mint tea in your local cafe and a spicy “Fricassé” shared with the person you love.

The reasons why people leave their countries and go abroad are limitless and each person has their own motives. The journey differs according to the personal goals. Some want to escape their lives, others want to build a better carrier, but what everyone has in common is the personal growth they acquire when living independently. You’ll have the chance to rediscover yourself, your thoughts, your beliefs, your capabilities and even your relationship to others. You’ll discover that there is another stronger you outside of your comfort zone.

Ironically, you’ll also discover that you are a great cook (a million way to cook pasta), that you like your things to be organized (or not), you’ll learn to switch off the lights like your father used to do and sometimes you’ll just wish to be a kid again and not care about any of this.

In the end, If you are planning to live or study abroad , I don’t actually advise you to expect anything. whatever your motives are, live the journey to the fullest, be patient, challenge yourself, dive into the ups and downs, learn to accept the new cultures and don’t be too attached to yours. Remember that every experience you go through is another lesson that helps you grow.

Writing is my window to the world