I moved to a foreign country by myself. Not just visiting or in transit. Up and MOVED. I wasn't moving with my family, fiance, or friends. By. My. Self. I was born in England and had been to the UK quite a few times up until I moved. But visiting a place and moving there to live are two very different things, and boy, was I in for a surprise, and it was also scary. I didn't know anyone in Newcastle, so really I was pretty much on my own.
I survived living in a foreign country by myself. I figured because I was pretty familiar with the UK, it wouldn't be too hard to live here. Um...yeah, not so much. It's only when I started living here that I noticed how many little things that I took for granted in the US are different here. Looking back, whining about these differences does seem kind of petty, but when you're far from home, it all adds up to missing home more. The biggest shock was having to drive in the UK: on the other side of the road in a stickshift - talk about trial by fire. Thankfully, my dad taught me to drive a manual car about 10 years ago, but that was also the last time I drove a stick. Then I had to deal with roundabouts, motorways, different traffic rules, narrow streets and tight parking spaces....but guess what? I DID IT. I didn't get into a crash or injure myself or someone else (well maybe the car got injured when I scraped a pillar in a parking garage, but that's it). I can definitively say that I know how to drive on both sides of the road, automatic or manual transmission, in two countries.
I didn't go broke or (God forbid) die living in a foreign country by myself. With the exchange rate between the dollar and pound fluctuating and me getting paid in dollars, this was a real concern. However, I lucked out by finding a room in a house where all utilities (including internet) were included in the rent, which was a lot cheaper than what I would've been paying for my own apartment. With the room in the house came amazing roommates, Charlotte and Ben, who, despite not knowing me before I landed at their doorstep, were always ready, with cup of tea in hand, to comfort me in the depths of my homesickness or physical sickness. I did get hit with some nasty cold viruses in February, one right after the other, and Ben even offered to go to the clinic with me when I became worried about not getting better. Their warmth, humor, and care is something I will always be grateful for...oh, Charlotte would randomly bake us cake or cookies! I also was here during the coldest winter in 30 years, which was a shock to someone who had lived in California for the past 20+ years, but I made it through the snow, slush, and storms.
I realized that I am a very capable adult living in a foreign country. Up until I turned 30, I was always plagued with this feeling that my adulthood was...delayed? I mean I had a job, bills to pay, a social life etc., but I was still living at home with my parents while my friends slowly got married, bought houses, became pregnant, etc. While I know that each of us has our own time and place for stuff like that to happen, you can't help but compare yourself a little. Sure, I missed my parents terribly and the places and people I knew. But I think I did come into my adulthood fully by living here and reminded myself that I am quite capable of taking care of myself. There were a lot of times when I questioned my decision to move to the UK because I felt so lonely and miserable, yet I think I gained a strength and confidence by persevering. I also realized my capabilities in professional and personal capacities, which I hope will translate into new and improved career opportunities and a fulfilling personal life. Also? I'm probably the only out of my friends who got to live abroad, and not as a student. Cross that off the life list :)
I am thrilled and ecstatic to be returning home, but grateful for this experience. Even though I joke that if I don't come back to the UK or hear a British accent for a while that would be fine with me, this place was sort of my desert walk part two. For that reason, it will hold a significant place in my memory.
That said, I am SO ready to wear t-shirts and sandals for the next five months.