As Dani pointed out last week, talking to your family about moving abroad is hard, and every experience is different. Because Dani and I have such different experiences, we thought it might be interesting for you to see how we’ve dealt with this situation (see more about Dani’s experience). Hopefully our stories can help you find a way to write your own.
Note: I feel like I should point out that while Dani’s story might be a bit more ‘normal,’ my abroad experience is very unique to me (although it is my normal!). When I turned 18 my parents left the country, moving to Spain. I decided I wanted an international experience as well and headed down south to Brasil. Eventually I ended up in Granada, the city where my parents and brother are currently living, however, there have been several conversations that I have had with both my parents and extended family about my life choices (not to mention having to defend them to people who don’t even know me, but that’s a conversation for another day).
The experience is one of a lifetime
I am extraordinarily lucky to have parents that understand the idea that life is worth living; and sometimes doing something that isn’t normal is a great way to find yourself. Still, when I think about some of the opportunities I have had (and will probably continue to have), I cannot help but appreciate my ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences and I am not afraid to take advantage of them when they come up.
However, I doubt I would be so open to doing ‘crazy’ things if it wasn’t for the support of my parents and the honest conversations we have about my adventures. They pushed me from a young age not to follow the crowds just because it is what everyone else does but to think for myself. At the same time, I have had conversations with other family members and close friends who don’t understand why I make the life choices I do, thinking that I must be missing out on things like work and responsibility and stuff like that. Which brings me to my next point.
I am responsible about it
I started babysitting when I was 12, got my first job at 16, and since I have been living abroad, have worked in some capacity or another almost the whole time. I might not have always covered all of my spending, but my family knows that I do my best because we talk about it, and often. And it has been a looong time since I have been 100% financially dependent on my parents, and since I have been out of school I have been establishing myself as 100% independent (though I am happy to go out with my parents anytime and have no shame in letting them pay!).
At the same time, I spent about 95% less money on education because I decided to study my entire degree in Spain (read more about that here and here). This also means that I could have a realistic conversation with my parents about giving me a hand with the costs for school—something that I wouldn’t have considered had I studied in the U.S. where school is so much more expensive. This also means I am out of school debt-free, setting myself up to be able to take advantage of more opportunities the future throws my way, leading me to the next conversation point.
I will integrate my experiences into my future profession
Being trilingual is a huge benefit in today’s professional world and, with my background in sociology and cultural competences, I am happy to work across a wide range of topics and cultures. This means that my experience while being abroad is valuable to my future profession (whatever that may be). Even getting my current job, at the Fundación de la Universidad de Granada, was based on what I have learned while living abroad. And I know I am lucky that my parents think this way about it too.
However, I won’t lie that everyone thinks like this as one of the biggest critiques I get from close friends and family is the ‘waste’ of time, money, etc. that they think it is to invest in living abroad. Personally, I would say it is exactly the opposite. In addition to helping me improve my language and cultural competence skills, my time living abroad has allowed me to become the person I want to be, both personally and professional. And, because I have been able to say yes to crazy work experiences that I might not have tried out otherwise, I am aware of what I want for my professional future because I haven’t lived my life thinking ‘what if…’
I do it for me
At the end of the day, I have learned to live my life, and talk about it with people around me, from the perspective that I do it for me. I understand that I am a workaholic, and that I have weird social issues, but at the end of the day I am happy with the person I am and who I am becoming. Would I change some of the choices I have made? Maybe… but moving abroad isn’t one of them.
In fact, I have become one of the biggest pro-abroad experience people I know. I worked in the Erasmus office at school, am currently helping coordinate some abroad opportunities for friends, and have this blog. When you have had abroad experiences like I have had, when you talk to people, they get it—and if they don’t, well maybe it’s just not worth talking about (which is something else I have learned to accept over the years).
The way I see, we all have the option to go after our dreams, whether it’s what is expected or something out of the norm, and the people who know me all know I made the right choice for me. What’s the right choice for you?