One of the reasons I wanted to live abroad for a year was because I thought it would help me to find myself and allow me discover what I want in life. It sounds cliche but that was definitely one of the outcomes I was hoping to achieve. It’s really daunting moving to a different country half way across the world with different cultures and a totally different way of life and I soon began to go through a ‘culture shock’. I’ve been going to America since I was 13 weeks old and having family over there I thought I knew America and Americans extremely well, but I was surprised. I also didn’t think I would experience a ‘culture shock’ because I’m a native English speaker and I thought surely America can’t be that different to England. But everything was different; the food, water, clothes, media, shops, customs etc. This took me some while to get used to and it really made me appreciate England, its people and the way of life back home.
Before I came to the U.S I made a to do list and thought that I’d definitely be able to tick the items off easily. And sure enough I did quite a lot of the N.Y.C and Long Island based ones easily (Highline walk, Coney Island, N.Y.E in Time Square) etc. However I seemed to have forgotten how big America was and due to my work commitments and the little amount I got paid, I didn’t have the opportunity thus time passes quickly like a flowing river.
I also thought about how maybe because I was going to be living in America I would totally change my image, become more into fashion, get my hair and nails done all the time and be a totally different person because I was ready for a change. By christmas time this hadn’t happened, in fact I had almost reversed. I couldn’t be bothered to do my hair or make up and just wore sweat pants all the time because I was working with young children all day and it was easier (there isn’t anything wrong with any of those things)! But this new image was so unlike me and totally not what I wanted or thought would happen. I became almost depressed at how much I’d ‘let myself go’.
Another thing was that by christmas time the novelty of living on Long Island and in America had worn off because I was familiar with most things now, I was over the ‘culture shock’ and I had established a good routine and made some amazing friends. Not to mention the fact that the winter was extremely depressing and the snow felt like it would be here for eternity. With feeling all of this and dealing with homesickness and the stressfulness of my job, I was a mix of emotions and I felt like I was on a constant roller coaster with highs and lows, and I was still trying to figure myself out and questioned why I was even in America. I had the love and support of my new friends here because we all totally understood what each other was going through, but when I would tell friends at home that I was feeling low or upset, some would be really supportive and others would just say “awww, but you’re in N.Y” or “how can you be sad, you’re in America”. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear and didn’t help at all because I realised that no matter where you settle in life, there is good and bad everywhere, and it doesn’t matter whether you live in the most beautiful place on earth, we are only human and we can be upset and have down days no matter where we live.
After the winter had passed it felt like I was in limbo waiting for the summer to start where I could go to the beach and hang out in the sun all day!! It wasn’t until around April time after my mum had come to visit me when the penny dropped. I started enjoying work more and started appreciating why I was here and what I was doing here. Although I might not have done what I had set out to do for myself and ticked everything off my to do list, it became clear to me that coming here had allowed me to take a step back from my life in England and allowed me to view it as an outsider, kind of like someone observing earth from space. I was now able to see that coming here had made me realise what I didn’t want in life and how I didn’t want to be. And although I thought I’d come here and find what I did want, I understand now that it’s important to first find out what we don’t want in order to understand what we do want in life. So I’m grateful I came here and I can come home and know what I don’t want in life which will help me establish what I do what for the next years to come.
Things didn’t make sense at first but now some things do. Being away from home and living in another country for a year hasn’t answered all my questions but I’ve certainly learned a great deal. I’m not saying that everyones experience will be like mine because of course it won’t, everyone is different and everyone experiences things differently. I feel like now I have this knowledge I don’t want to keep to myself. After all, the act of discovering who we are will force us to accept that we can go further than we think.
This guest post was written by Jazzy Oduba. You can find more of her on her blog ´Life Is Spicy´.