Being an expat is a massive adventure, not to mention an emotional rollercoaster. Packing it all up and moving to a new country is a big step and you should give yourself a huge pat on the back for being so brave!
When I began my expat journey in London, I was both nervous and over the moon. London was everything I dreamed of. It was beautiful, alive and had an endless list of things to do. My family and I said our tearful goodbyes at the station as they boarded the train to Heathrow. I walked back to my new flat in a bit of a daze, with the realization that I was living alone for the first time in my life, and in a new country! I was like, OK now what?!
While being an expat was an incredible, life-changing experience, it definitely had its ups and downs. From the moments of intense homesickness to the worry that I had no idea what I was doing with my life career-wise, I went through every emotion imaginable (cue the classic 20something existential crisis).
Being in such a new environment can take a toll on your mental health and it’s extremely important to look after your wellbeing. With that, I’ve put together some tips to help you take care of yourself as a 20-something expat. These really helped me out, and I hope they help you, too.
1. Arrange Group Video Chats With Your Loved Ones Back Home
OK, I know this one sounds a little obvious, but when my homesickness was at its worst, I found that video calling two or three of my closest friends at the same time was incredibly helpful. What started out as a group therapy session over Skype soon evolved into a goof-fest with our usual shenanigans (this involved sharing Instagram memes in real time and watching each others’ reactions because we’re weird like that). It was like I was back home!
Now, this can sometimes be a challenge, especially with work and a time difference, but we didn’t let that stop us 😉 A bit of planning in advance and we managed to squeeze in an hour (or two) on the weekends, which made all the difference in the world.
2. Explore a New Place
This goes without saying, but it honestly does work. Trust me, it’s extremely easy to lounge your job hunt worries away with some Netflix, but the moment you step out of your flat and into the centre of the amazing new city you’re in, I promise you’ll feel loads better. I say this from personal experience, no matter how groggy and lethargic I might feel, the moment I get the heck outside and discover a new park in Soho I hadn’t known about, or a cute new cafe, I’m reminded of why I love it here so much and I just feel instantly better.
3. Take A Class!
Nothing gets the mind moving and motivated like learning a new skill, and what better place than in a whole new country? The incredible thing about being in your 20s is that your options are pretty much endless, as cliche as that sounds. That skill you wanted to learn but didn’t have as much time for because of uni? Why not give it a go now? Whether it’s pottery or pasta-making or learning to bake like expert chefs, there’s a lot to choose from.
There are lots of reasons why taking a group class in something you’re interested in can work wonders for your mental health. Firstly, you get to make friends! Many of us take the expat leap entirely on our own, myself included. Next, learning a new skill can greatly boost your confidence! There’s nothing like admiring something amazing you’ve created to get the positive vibes going.
There you have it! A few things I do to keep up the self-care. Fellow expats, what ways do YOU take care of your mental health while abroad?