Last year I decided to move halfway across the world to a new city alone. Yes, ALONE. It was terrifying and exciting all at the same time. I first came to New Zealand in 2006 to attend teachers college at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. During the year and a half that I lived there I studied, hiked, and essentially fell in love with the country. I was mesmerized by Aoetera‘s beauty and promised myself I would return one day. After several years of teaching (and planning), I found myself on a plane making the day long journey back to the ‘land of the long white cloud’.
I will back up just for a second and mention here that my academic fascination with New Zealand, and the University of Auckland in particular, began once I became a practicing Kindergarten teacher. As I took Running Records and used the Observation Survey in my classroom I became interested in early years literacy. Like REALLY interested. I began to think about why those programs/resources were effective, and then wondered who came up with them. Marie Clay. I learned that in addition to developing the literacy intervention program – Reading Recovery, Marie Clay was a developmental psychologist, distinguished researcher, and the first female professor at the University of Auckland. I HAD to go. In many ways, I felt that attending the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland was my own unique way of paying homage to one of early childhood education’s ‘greats’. So began my adventure.
Back to the reality of moving to a new country, new city alone. At first it was hard. I experienced moments of loneliness, anxiety and self-doubt. Fast forward months later, and as I write this post I have long since traded in loneliness for introspection, anxiety for embracing the unknown, and self-doubt for confidence. For me, it was the friends I made that really helped me transition into life in a new city.
In a few weeks I will be moving back to Canada to complete part of my dissertation at home. As I began making my to-do lists, I started to reflect on how incredibly rewarding stepping outside of my comfort zone has been. My reflections led to me wonder what experiences others have had on their own journey. I decided to ask my friends, all of whom are international students to share their insights and reflections about moving to a new country. Here are their thoughts:
The thing that I have found most useful when moving to a new country is probably not going to be very deep or inspirational, but it’s quite practical. When going to any new place (regardless of how you’re getting there), or trying to figure out how to get somewhere, use Google Maps! For developed countries, Google Maps is quite accurate! Sometimes, it will even tell you if a road is blocked or a subway station is closed. And if you are lost, you can just turn on your GPS feature, and open Google Maps, and it should tell you where you are! Google Maps has saved me so many times in the last couple of years, and hopefully, other people will realize how useful it is too!
Sometimes you don’t know what life is going to bring but it is in trusting and living with uncertainty that you learn much more than you ever think you would. Living in a different city more than 10 hours away from where I have been all my life has taught me to embrace change and make the best of what God has blessed me with! Especially thankful for the strangers I met who are now called .. FRIENDS!
I’ll go deep, and I’ll say that I’ve learnt how strong a person can be, how strong I can be, even when alone and on the far side of the world. I’ve learnt how similar people can be, even when they come from countries miles apart. I’ve learnt how a difference in culture can either create enormous gaps, or bond people together, and it all depends on how open your mind is. I’ve learnt to prioritize the important things over the silly stuff, and to appreciate little pleasures in life. I’ve also learnt how the love of knowledge offers you a unique view on things. I’ve met wonderful people, and awful people, and every single one of them made me know more about the world and about myself. I’ve noticed how distance can amplify everything, and make everything look small at the same time. I’ve learnt how childhood memories make sense now, and maybe only now you start appreciating how your life path has led you to where you are. I’ve learnt how feeding the peacocks in an old building can become the summary of a lifetime, and how, at the end, we only always try to do our best, to be the best we can.
Don’t reflect or retell hardships and feelings. Control your feelings and don’t allow yourself to feel lonely. Focus on the things at hand and make yourself busy.
For me, this blog post represents a special moment in time – one where strangers became family, and the world became my teacher. I have learned that pursuing a dream requires dedication, persistence and resilience. It may not be easy, but it is sure worth it. In the end you will have accomplished more than a goal, you will have enriched your life through experiences and encounters – all by taking a leap of faith.
Sending you best wishes from New Zealand,