Reflection: My First Year as an Expat

It has officially been a year since I landed in Brussels with only two suit cases andready to take on the world. My biggest confession from this past year? I had no idea what I was doing when I picked and moved to a whole new country. What’s even worse is that I had —no idea— I didn’t know what I was doing when I moved to Belgium.

Pictures from throughout the year

I don’t really know what I was thinking. I suppose I was thinking it wouldn’t be that hard. I thought because I am so extroverted and generally resourceful that making friends, learning the language, and starting my life here would be no problem. I thought because I am well-traveled and had lived abroad for 3 months before, I knew what to expect. I expected difficult and tedious bureaucratic hoops. I expected to get used to drinking more beer.  I expected homesickness would be easily defeated by my electronic champions, Skype and Whatsapp.

Before I moved, I was quite baffled by some of the reactions I would get when people would find out that I was moving to Belgium.

One of my dearest friends from college told me one evening over a couple of beers that he thought I was so brave moving across the world to be with the one I love.  I just laughed and shrugged, not sure what to say, because in my head, I was just getting on a plane. Nothing I hadn’t done probably close to a hundred times before. I wasn’t stressed about it.

I remember one of my best friends the day after my wedding cried as she drove back home because that was the last time we probably were going to see each before I left. I honestly did not really understand that reaction at the time. It wasn’t like I was dying or disappearing. Sure, I’d always been six hours in the future, but we’d still talk. I mean, we were living an hour away from each other already, an 8 hour flight wouldn’t be that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things?

It turns out everyone else understood what exactly I was doing except for me.

Living abroad is different when you know that you’re not planning on moving back to where you came from. I am not sure that anything can really prepare you for that. You never realize how often you visit a friend who is only an hour away until you’re no longer only an hour away.

This thing I thought would be so easy turned out to be one of the hardest tasks I have ever committed myself to. Becoming an expat was harder than music school, harder than teaching, harder than summiting a Mount Gros on a sprained Achilles tendon. But in some ways it was probably for the best that I completely underestimated what I was getting myself into when I decided to move to Belgium. When I think about all the things that happened in this last year, I am deeply amazed and supremely humbled. I have learned a level of patience no teaching experience could have ever given me. I have gained more courage than any 70 foot climb has ever instilled in me. And I have developed a level of gratitude that only comes when you step outside your comfort bubble.

I have no idea what next year looks like, but I am looking forward to continuing this adventure.

Tot de volgende

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4 thoughts on “Reflection: My First Year as an Expat

  1. Ik ben zo blij dat je nu bij onze familie hoort, Monica, ik ben zo blij dat je
    Maarten gelukkig maakt, ik ben gewoon blij dat je hier bent!

    • Reading about your period of sleep and much The Young and The Restless watching took some guilt of of me. I am glad that I am not the only one that has gotten overwhelmed with trans-continental move. Now I am definitely moving into the finding out where I can be useful here period.

      Mr. says hello 🙂 We send hugs and kisses back! Hope you, D, and the girls are doing well. We hope to come home for Christmas but I’ll know more probably in August.

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