Pushing Through Short-term Struggles 1000’s of Miles From Home
Updated: May 19
When I heard about the opportunity to study abroad for a year, it was something that I was drawn too. On reflection, the seed for this year abroad had been planted when I was 17 when I spent 12 days in India on a Leadership Programme, followed 2 years later when I independently travelled to China. Having really enjoyed and feeling like I had grown personally from both these experiences, spending a year away from the comfort of my home, seemed like the right next step.
Having only spent short periods of time abroad in the past, in my mind, knowing that it was temporary, meant that I didn’t fully need to adapt to the new culture, new environment or invest time in building new relationships whilst away.
When I first arrived in Singapore for my year abroad, I was in a completely new environment, I had no friends or community and so at first, I felt lonely. From a short-sighted perspective, without giving any time to build new relationships, I thought this is how I could feel for the whole year. In my past experience abroad, this feeling of loneliness wouldn’t have been a problem, knowing that I would be back home soon. As such, it was incredibly daunting knowing that I would be spending a whole year there.
And when one thing starts to go wrong, it feels like everything else around you also starts to fall apart as this feeling coincided with some problems getting my visa finalised, and soon after, I fell ill.
So, I felt lonely, I was ill and I was stressed and worried about the prospect of having to leave the country within 30 days due to the visa issues. Being away from home meant that I had no obvious support network. On my own, thousands of miles away from home, I didn’t know who I could rely on. This put me in a situation where I was solely responsible for overcoming the issues I faced.
After the initial shock, I accepted that I needed to take control of the situation. It made me focus on exactly what I needed to do, push through the illness and identify the steps I needed to take to resolve the issue. Within two weeks I got my visa and started to feel a lot better.
Knowing that I was spending a year in Singapore forced me to be proactive and engage with other people. I soon realised, many of us were also in the same boat as me and I sought comfort in knowing that if I’m feeling a certain way, others who are in the same situation must also be feeling similar. Over time, as a natural positive consequence I built a new community of friends from across the globe. Day by day these relationships grew stronger and I started to enjoy my experience away from home more and more.
Spending a whole year abroad in a totally new environment enabled me to learn a lot more about myself. I noticed aspects of my personality that I had not known so clearly before. I expect this was because in the UK, I was in a routine. I interacted with familiar people, went to familiar places, did familiar things and any new places I went to was for a fairly limited amount of time. Moreover, having only ever experienced the systems and the cultures of the UK, adapting to something new, like moving away to a new city for university, didn’t take too long for me.
Spending a year abroad taught me the importance of patience and not to be short-sighted. By pushing through the short term struggle, I arrived at long term satisfaction.
Following this experience, I was confident and reassured about my decision to book a one way ticket to India as a start to my career after graduating. Again, in the short term in India I felt these adverse emotions and feelings, but this time, these emotions felt familiar. Knowing how positive my previous experiences had panned out by giving time, I was able to observe how I felt and remain patient. This time I did not worry about the prospect of feeling like this for all my time here. And sure enough, as I took time to build relationships, get more familiar with my surroundings and learn more about the different culture, these adverse emotions (not so) magically disappeared.
I realised this short-sighted problem in the context of spending time abroad, but I also recognise that this awareness can be applied to many situations which expose me to new environments. This also reinforces my view that doing something new is only going to be beneficial, especially when you give things time.
Watch me talk more about this here.