It has been almost 5 years since I left my home country and today I want to finally tell how it feels like.
A lot of people connect going abroad with permanent adventure, happiness and satisfaction. This might be the case if we talk about travelling pure for the purpose of discovering new countries and gaining exciting experiences. The situation is though pretty different if one chooses to stay somewhere longer, trying to build his or her life there. In intercultural competence there is a theory called “culture shock” which very precisely describes the state each and every individual goes through while being abroad (see the picture). It looks like the letter U, starting from the highest point meaning excitement, going down till it reaches the lowest point and then moving back to the top. This pattern is very common, almost ubiquitous I would say. What differs here is merely the duration and intensity of each stage. Some people go down slowly, stay there for a bit and then go up rapidly again. Others though slide quite deep down and remain there for a while, for a hard and painful while.
My pattern was complicated, as I not just left for Germany but also stayed longer in other countries. However, what happened to me was at first a common U-pattern. In my lowest point I was overwhelmed by the feeling of loneliness. I felt like a small girl who suddenly found herself in the middle of a huge world where everything was so different and everyone was so cold and alien. I realized there was no one around to give me a helping hand or at leat a piece of advice if I would have been in a need of a such. I was yearning for a warm and loving hug but all those who really cared for me where far away. I missed them terribly. I missed Belarus, too.
However, at some point I started going up but I stuck at the adjustment stage which was the most weird for me as I felt being torn apart between two cultures. I didn’t feel like home while being in Belarus anymore. Everything there felt so foreign and odd. At the same time I still felt like a foreigner in Germany. I didn’t know how to answer the question “Where is your home?” I was floating in between two worlds not belonging to any of them. I was ‘homeless’. I felt lost.
The sense of belonging came after about 4 years. I spent 5 months in England and then 2 months in Italy, and I was longing to get back to Germany! I knew there were MY people waiting for me there. I knew I mattered a lot to them, so did they to me. I missed them painfully, I also missed the city and the life I had built there. The moment I returned was the moment Germany became my home. I finally felt I was belonging to something and wasn´t floating in the air anymore. I felt happy.
My story is unique, as each and every other story of those who left their home in a search for a better life. However, we all face similar problems, even if to a different degree. The purpose of this article was to show that going abroad does not mean being permanently happy and getting everything ready on a silver plate as some people readily assume. Going abroad is a huge step that might indeed improve your life and your personality tremendously (I believe this depends completely on the individual!) However, going abroad also means being not understood, feeling lonely and lost, facing problems on your own and struggling, struggling, struggling.