Today, 12 years ago I moved from Colombia to Europe. I took the big step and follow my dream to study Design in Germany. Living abroad seems like a dream come true, but it has some struggles that not many people talk about. To celebrate my 12th year living abroad, I made a list of 12 struggles/things/facts I have had throughout the years.
1. I left Colombia when I was 18 years old. I had no idea how to do the householding and my cooking was terrible. In the first years, cooking was a matter of survival. But since a couple of years ago, I have discovered a passion for cooking. Especially cooking plant-based dishes. I love to try out new recipes and ingredients.
2. For the first 5 years, I could only call my family once every other month with an international card. A card for 1 hour cost €10. Back then that was a lot of money for me. My mother and I would keep in contact through email and Facebook. Later we started using Skype, Viper, and BBtext (from Blackberry).
3. I speak Spanish, English, German, and Dutch. I feel that every language brings out in me a different personality. It’s like every language I have learned comes with its own culture. To be honest, I feel the most me when I am in Colombia speaking Spanish. I have never felt like this in any other country.
4. Living abroad means missing out on the little and big events back home. I have missed graduations, weddings, birthdays, funerals…
5. Once had to spend a Xmas and new year alone. Believe me, it’s not fun. Loneliness is a common feeling while living abroad. It hits harder on special dates.
6. Since my daughter Luna was born I miss my family more. I sometimes still grieve on the fact that Luna won’t grow up in the same culture as me.
7. Making local friends is hard. I feel that people make their friends in high school and university. And as an outsider on top of that a foreigner, is hard to enter those kinds of circles. I felt that in Germany and I feel that in the Netherlands too. My friends in Germany and NL are all foreigners. Mostly Latin.
8. Living abroad means always been ‘the different one’. Not only I look different but I behave differently. It has its pros and cons. This is not bad per se. But sometimes the differences make me feel that I don’t belong.
9. Talking about belonging. Sometimes I feel that I don’t belong here in The Netherlands. And when I am in Colombia I feel that I don’t belong there either. Living abroad for so long does something to your identity. Something I find hard to explain.
10. Often, I daydream about how it would be to move back to Colombia with my family.
11. After living for 8 years in Germany, I moved to The Netherlands. Moving from Colombia to Germany wasn’t as hard as moving to The Netherlands. I didn’t realize it until I moved. I had successfully moved once to a new country, and I thought it would be as easy. But it wasn’t. In The Netherlands, I didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and I was looking for a job. I remember my first years as a black blurry time. With time and practicing yoga and meditation, I got to change my mindset. And went back to feeling thankful. My life slowly started to change. I met people and started out working as an influencer.
12. Living abroad changed me. It made me appreciate my family my country and my culture more. And also it has made me an independent ‘go-getter’ woman. I can not imagine where I would be if I haven’t taken the big leap and fly across the world. But for now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.