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Why Living Abroad Doesn’t Scare Me


Living Abroad AFS Exchange Moving Country

I don’t remember being scared when I decided at 15 to move country by myself.

To be honest I don’t even remember really making the decision. It was more like I made a series of small steps that started a serious domino effect. Before I knew it I was on a plane leaving my family and my country behind, with a year in the United States ahead of me.

The US held some sort of fascination for me as I was growing up. I was an avid reader and almost every book seemed to be based there. When I first read about summer being in June I counted out on my fingers and concluded when it was December in New Zealand, it was June in the United States.

Luckily by the time I reached 16 I had a better understanding of how seasons and the world actually work…

I first heard of the AFS Intercultural Program from friends who were talking about taking part. That very same week AFS spoke to my school about having the opportunity to spend anywhere from a few months to a year living in another country.

I’d spent my life so far in a small town of 15,000 followed by a move to 15 minutes away to the big smoke of 70,000. For reasons I still can’t fathom I wanted to move to a country with about 73 times the population and 35 times the size of my own. No sweat right?!

Logic told me my parents would say no, but experience has now taught me how supportive they are, and they were willing to go ahead and see what happened. In truth I think they thought I would back out! But then I was accepted into the program and I was ranking countries on a piece of paper. This could not be reality. I think I chose Sweden as a second choice and I doubt I even knew where Sweden was! (Thankfully I’ve gained a lot more experience at  Choosing a Country To Move To since then…)

After just over a year of tumbling towards living abroad I found myself bidding my family and friends goodbye and climbing the stairs of the small plane that would take me to Auckland and from there on to Wichita, Kansas (5 flights and 2 nights later).  I was crying so much the flight attendant gave me an entire box of tissues.

Luckily my gut feeling on pursuing this first big move overseas was right. To be cliché, that year changed my life.

AFS helped me get to know myself better, and it opened my world up to people from all sorts of different cultures and backgrounds. It gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams.

Since that first leap I’ve moved overseas 3 more times.

Being a naïve teenager probably had a lot to do with the little fear I had in making this first decision. You feel like you can do anything at that age right?

But how do I still do it now?

Since then I’ve been able to piggy back off my young self’s confidence that everything would work out and it would be worth it. Experience has taught me there is more to be gained than there is to lose with travelling. If you’re thinking about it, you shouldn’t be afraid of living abroad.

If something scares you, it might be a good thing to try – Seth Godin

Sonja x

P.S. Hosting a student can be a great way to bring another country to you and enrich your life that way. If you’re interested pop over to AFS Intercultural Programs. No they don’t know I’m writing this, it’s all my own opinion!

12 thoughts on “Why Living Abroad Doesn’t Scare Me

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Me too! And that my parents allowed me to :).

      I lived in Wichita, Kansas. It was great because it gave me the opportunity to really immerse myself in living there and not be distracted by wanting to see the country too much since it was all so far away! I did manage a good amount of travel thanks to my host family and some friends, but mostly I loved living somewhere totally different and the connections that I made.

  1. Joella says:

    I would have loved to have done this when I was a teenager. I really wanted to live in the US! I don’t think I even knew it existed. But I’ve ended up moving to California as an adult anyway- so it all worked out haha! Were you able to just continue on with high school back in NZ after your year in the US? Because of the way our A-levels work in the UK, I don’t think a Brit would just be able to continue on. I think they’d have to do an extra year.

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Haha that’s great it all worked out! I did some extra study before I left New Zealand and after I came back I did some more extra stuff. In the end I got into university on “discretionary entrance” based on my study in the USA and what I had completed in NZ, but I didn’t need it because I managed to gain normal entry with a little extra work. Some my friends left in the last half of our final school year and just completed everything before they left. I’m not sure if they have those kind of allowances in the UK!

  2. Eva Casey says:

    Wichita, Kansas! Woah! That must have been a culture shock! It would have been for me and I grew up only on a different coast! How did you acclimate to life in Kansas?

    • Migrating Miss says:

      Haha a little. Although because I went to highschool there and lived with a local family it made it much easier. I was able to go along with them and just try and integrate myself as much as possible by taking part in lots of activities at school. I’m still really close with my family now! I suppose having grown up seeing the US on TV etc helped, although of course it’s different! Moving from New Zealand was so different though that it probably helped. If I moved from somewhere more similar I might miss home more! I definitely missed the mountains and the ocean while I was there though. In New Zealand they are never far away but in Kansas they definitely are!!

  3. Nobonita Chowdhury says:

    Hi Sonja! I moved to the U.S. at 16 as well. I went to a boarding school in Maine from where I graduated this year. Now I’m starting college in NYC but because I want to live in other countries I’m also applying to colleges outside of North America. Still don’t know where I’ll end up but only time will tell. I totally understand your doubts before making that decision though. I’m from Bangladesh where the society is pretty conservative so I was super surprised as well when my parents allowed me to go. I did face a lot of criticism from relatives though. But I was really happy that my parents supported me all the way. I have a question: My biggest problem is moving around stuff when you’re always switching places. Do you have any advice on that? I try to keep minimal belongings but even then it’s hard sometimes. Thanks!

    • Migrating Miss says:

      That’s really great that you made that move on your own to go to boarding school and now college, you should be so proud of yourself! When I finished highschool I had no idea what I’d do, or even after university! To be honest even the way my life has changed between this time last year and now is incredible, so you really never know and have to take every chance :). Keep doing that an just listen to the people who support you, you’ll prove the critics wrong eventually without having to try and convince them.

      I’m actually a little terrible with the whole giving things up, and I have stuff all over the world! I try to keep what I have low, but then I have things I’d like to keep like artwork I collected on my travels which is now spread across 3 countries. I plan on gathering it all together eventually! The number one thing I think you can try and keep low is clothes. Styles and climates are so different, don’t try and move your clothes. Move the other stuff like things that have meaning and leave the clothes behind! You won’t like them soon anyhow haha. Hope that helps a little!! x

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