Moving to a New Country Alone

Moving to a new place can be daunting no matter where you are going — a different country, state, or city. I moved to Brussels, Belgium, a week ago and it has been one of the scariest things I’ve done. I’d visited Brussels a couple times in the past and it never seemed like an incredibly safe city to me, but I was accepted to university here and now it’s my home for the next 3 years.

I flew in to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, because I had left some bags in the Netherlands after my few months as an au pair there. Almost immediately after I arrived, my to-do list felt overwhelming, but luckily my boyfriend is a lovely support and kept my head from falling off. The morning after I arrived was hectic, visiting my au pair family, getting bags, and giving little gifts to my au pair kids. We ended up leaving for my new place in Brussels an hour later than we had originally intended.

Moving in was not that stressful, but the paperwork required afterwards was. I felt like I had to do everything at once. Moving to Brussels as a non-EU student meant that I had to register with my commune, enroll in my school, register for class, make a new bank account, find a part time job, get a student transportation card, and get new health insurance as soon as possible on top of figuring out public transportation, making new friends, and getting to know the city and campus. I felt like I had to do that all my first day here. Talk about overwhelming myself!

After writing everything down and talking to some other students, it became clear that I really did not need to stress as much as I was and that all the other international students had the same problems and tasks as I did. Knowing that everyone was in the same or a similar boat was really calming.

I’ve been in Brussels, Belgium for a week now, I’ve almost finished jumping through all those bureaucratic hoops, and my classes will start next week. If there’s anything I’ve learned from traveling and living abroad, it’s that taking risks and going to new places, even if it’s scary, is worth it. Have you had any nerve wracking or scary moving experiences or have you learned anything important or interesting from moving? Let me know in the comments!

My Arrival in Sweden

The family I stayed with in the summer of 2018 lives near Jönköping, Sweden, which is just below Lake Vättern, which is the second largest lake in Sweden! I’d known them since I was in kindergarten and they moved to Sweden two years before I visited. My friend’s dad picked me up at the airport and we took a train home in the middle of the night. It was a really exhausting journey; We arrived at 5 or 6 in the morning!

I originally tried to stay awake so I could hang out with my friend, Paola, and her family, but I crashed really hard and slept half the day. It was definitely the nap I needed! During my stay with Paola, most of the activities and people I spent time with were located in Jönköping, while I was staying in a smaller town very close to the city. The view from the train station overlooked Lake Vättern and it was beautiful, especially in the evenings.

The view of the lake from the train station. This picture was taken a little after 10pm!

Even though I had read about the long Swedish summer days, I was surprised by how light it stayed all the time! I definitely wasn’t prepared for the sun to set past midnight sometimes! Even after the sun set, the sky stayed dusky and light. Sometimes, the sky and the clouds felt really close because of the perpetual, sometimes eerie illumination.

View taken from the pier by the Lake at around 7pm

I arrived just in time for the annual food festival. It was amazing! There were so many smells and different foods and cultures! Apparently, in 2017 there was an Australian stall where they sold kangaroo meat, but it wasn’t there when we went. In one of the squares, there was a giant bubble blowing station, which was adorable and super fun. I spent a good half hour or so popping and blowing bubbles with a couple of friends! It was really hot and humid but the bubbles made me forget all about how sweaty I was!

I forgot to get a picture of the food stalls, but I definitely have a picture of the bubbles!

Jönköping, although it’s a small, not very touristy city, was incredibly cute and full of culture and gorgeous views. All of the people I met there were fun, sweet, and welcoming! I really want to go back, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to soon so I can visit my friend and explore more of what Sweden has to offer!

The Road So Far: An Incomplete Summary of My Travels

Moving countries is daunting in itself. When I left home just after my high school graduation to stay in Sweden with a friend, I had no idea that I wouldn’t come home for another 6 months. I just wanted a vacation and a short adventure with my friend!

It was definitely an adventure; view from a park in Jönköping, the city where I stayed!

Towards the end of my stay in Sweden, I withdrew from my intended university and decided to fly to Korea to attend Korean language school at Seoul National University. I was (and am) young, inexperienced, and afraid to move to a big city. Being a small town girl from Central California, I didn’t know whether or not I would acclimate well to life in a giant metropolis like Seoul.

Luckily, I found that I’m pretty good at adapting to my environment. My aunt helped me find a good goshiwon (room) to stay in and I met some amazing friends at my language school with whom I explored Seoul and found a beautiful, diverse community.

여의도 한강공원 // Yeouido Han River Park
My friends and I had picnics here whenever we could; watching the sun set over the river is breathtaking

After my course ended, I returned home with a better understanding of Korean and Korea, enriched by my overseas experience. But I wanted more! I longed to jump on a plane and go somewhere — anywhere. But who would pay for something like that? I had about $700 saved after my adventures in Sweden and Korea.

So, what could I do?

I decided to au pair! I spoke to maybe 9 families and eventually had to pick between 2: one was from Spain and one from the Netherlands. It was a very hard decision and, ultimately, I picked the Dutch family. (That turned out to be the wrong choice, but that’s for another time!). The good thing about au pairing abroad is that I had next to no living costs. Some au pairs even get their public transportation and language classes paid for by their host families!

I was originally supposed to stay with my Dutch host family in Amsterdam for 7 months, but after 3 months I realized that my living and working conditions were too stressful and unhealthy, so I quit. Now I’m touring around Europe when I can, still based near Amsterdam, and working on getting a student visa to study in Belgium this Fall.

the back of the Brussels Cathedral