Moving Abroad – Tips That Made My Adventure Easier

By Cullen Bickle, Marketing and Communications Intern

It is crazy to think how things can change in a matter of seconds. I still remember the moment I came home from school in the fall of 2010 and my dad saying “Hey Cullen, how would you feel if we moved to Spain?” At first I didn’t believe him, but after a few minutes I realized that he wasn’t joking and that my life was about to change forever. The only thing I knew before embarking on my adventure several quick months later, was that it was going to be a tough adjustment. I didn’t know anyone that could give me advice on how to make it all easier and as a result, I went in completely blind. After several months in Spain I realized that I had developed important life skills such as adapting to change. When I moved to Hong Kong four years later I was able to put these new found skills to the test and to my expectation they worked very well.

Change and being in an unfamiliar location is something that scares many people. Moving to two unfamiliar foreign countries, Spain and Hong Kong, I have learned how to make change and transitions an easy process. Therefore, I would like to share some tips that worked out for me when I moved to a new country.

The first tip is that I made myself aware of what I was getting into before arriving at my destination. That means that I researched about Spain and Hong Kong in order to get a feel on what kind of foods they eat, what language(s) they speak, how the people normally interact with each other, etc. I feel like surprises can be quite a speed-bump in the process of feeling comfortable in a new home; therefore, I try to eliminate all of the possible surprises ahead of me. A great way for professionals to do this is to use The International Center’s Global Competency Cultural Trainings. The Center does a great job at making people feel comfortable with new cultures and giving them all the need-to-know information.

Cullen and his new Japanese friend

The next tip I have found to be very helpful, but those close to me are not fond of, is that I try to detach myself from where I have left. Now, I do not mean I go completely incognito, but I distance myself enough to where I am focused on living my new life and not trying to live vicariously through my friends back home. I find that when focusing too much on what I may be missing out on, I would be missing out on what is happening all around me. Whenever I fear about missing out at home, I tell myself that my friends are the ones that should be jealous, not me. I enjoy just biting the bullet and focusing on what’s in front of me because to me, a lot of what these experiences are about are self-discovery and self-growth.

This next tip I found to be crucial to my adjustment – that is to get involved with as many different activities as possible. Getting involved has helped me in many different ways. I have met new people and made friends, learned more about the new culture that was living in, and it helped me get my mind off any struggles that I was having. I find that one of the hardest parts about being in an unfamiliar location is not knowing anyone in the area so once I made friends the process of feeling at home got much easier. I really enjoy taking advantage of all the possible opportunities abroad as they tend to be some of my favorite memories, especially the spontaneous ones.

Last but definitely not least… I HAVE HAD FUN! Both times living in a different country it has been an adventure of a lifetime that I will never forget. I have friends from all over the world and the best stories that I love to share. I have cherished every moment as it has flown by. I am just counting down the days until my next adventure!

Cullen enjoying his time in a new country with all of his new international friends