The origin of this post is one that is punctuated by both inspiration and hesitation. Let me explain.
As of two weeks ago, I am now a resident of Rotterdam, Netherlands, and a PhD candidate at the Rotterdam School of Management. As of 1 year and 1 month ago, I was an MSc candidate at the LSE. Before that I was in Canada, the USA, Malaysia, and India. And I’m not (that) old.
With each transition, I introspected, categorized, and adapted, all with about as much ease as opening a can of tomatoes without a can opener.
Last week, I met another PhD student that moved to the Netherlands from Iran. It was her first time ever leaving her country, her home, her family. She was, naturally, very homesick, and unable to fully take in the novelty of her new experience.
Then it hit me – these days, if we are fortunate enough, chances are higher education or work will take us away from home. Globalization, and the general notion of growing up and ‘leaving the nest’ so to speak sneak up on you, and no one really prepares you for what is to come.
So I wanted to write this post about my experience. But I hesitated, because it was already nearly the end of October, current students would have started, and while cathartic for me to verbalize my experience, altogether unhelpful for the audience I want to gear it toward.
But here I am anyway. I felt pretty depressed for nearly two and a half years from when I moved away from home for the first time, in spite of having moved twice before, so I hope it helps those that might still be feeling this way, and future cohorts.
Being away from home is hard for loads of people. I did not deal with it well when I first moved away to Canada. I would skype my family and friends for hours and hours, would eat meals by myself in front of the TV, and would not even try to engage with the course material or the community.
This was a horrible idea, and do you know why it was horrible? Because I flipped the pattern when I moved to London, and it changed my life.
The shock of moving away is a really tough one to overcome, but if you make that monumental effort in the first few months, you will be a new person. I guarantee it. Go to events, have awkward conversations with people, study with friends, and most importantly, try not to be by yourself for long periods of time at the beginning – it makes it all too easy to get caught up in the tornado of sadness you feel being outside your comfort zone. But that’s where the magic happens.
I know it can be extremely disorienting to be away from all that love and comfort, but the family you make in a new place is also irreplaceable. I miss my ‘family family’ and my LSE family – but I know they are just one call away.
So, do not despair. Call your mom or dad whenever you miss them, but don’t do it because you can’t think of anything else to do. Go outside, explore your surroundings, and make the most of your experience!
Embrace change as you would embrace your loved ones.