Moving to another country alone is a topic that comes up very often. We also had a chat about it in one of our Instagram Live Chats and we shared other content through our channels. About 10 years ago, I have decided to move abroad alone and here in this article there are my thoughts and experience, hoping this can be of any help for you as well, if you are maybe thinking to make this step on your own as well.
After studying for a few months in Barcelona, I have decided that I wanted to have another experience abroad and after searching for opportunities I moved to Utrecht - a city I’ve never been before in my life and moved in with a local family who I had not known before in my life either. Basically, I have started a new life from scratch and all on my own… I was moving completely alone, with no partner, nor friends or any acquaintances.
When I think back about all these years and about a way to describe it, it sounds like a mantra to me: either you do it or… you do it. As we always say, the expat life is more like a rollercoaster, there are a lot of ups and downs, happy and sad moments, empowering and challenging situations. And you get to experience all of them.
When you move abroad alone, it is such a wonderful experience because you empower yourself. One of the best pros ever! You become more independent and confident. You are the one setting and deciding the steps of your life. You take ownership of your life, decisions and actions.
What happens on the other side (the cons) is that you are also the only one who deals with struggles and challenging situations. So it can be quite overwheling sometimes. Of course, your family and friends back home will always be there to support and understand you, but it won’t be the same because they are not there to experience what YOU are actually experiencing.
Generally speaking, 10 years is not that long time ago, but when we talk about social media and technology, then it can be quite a huge difference. Back then I found some information on the the web as I was researching for Au Pairs. But I didn't have anything similar to what are communities like ours today, where I could get in touch with people already living their life abroad and learn from their experiences.
My Au-Pair family was amazing and they helped me a lot; they kind of replaced the communities I just talked about, because they were the ones giving me a lot of information and helping also with practical and administrational things - just to give an example: how do I register to the municipality?
Another big moment arrived when I had to move on from being an aupair, and I started looking for an apartment and a job. I don’t remember a real struggle, but it was 10 years ago and definitely a different situation than todays (it’s quite crazy to find an apartment in Utrecht nowadays!). I used mainly agencies on the internet and also those sticky advertisings you see at the supermarket boards - or probably, they don’t exist anymore by now. My needs were also different and I was just starting to work, so I didn’t have much money to waste on rent. For this reason, I looked for an apartment to share with other people: a good compromise for a cheaper place, while being with other people and making new friends.
Sometimes it can feel more comforting to look for people with your same nationality, even more when you are in a new country completely alone. Personally, I have never looked specifically for Italians. I’m very happy to meet them and spend time with them; I also have Italian friends living here in The Netherlands, but in general it’s not something I was directly searching for. Another part of me who wanted to step quite far from my comfort zone.
Still, I have to say that my very first friend in Utrecht was indeed Italian and I met her more by chance. She was an au-pair too and our au-pair families knew someone in common… the old good story of “knowing someone who knows someone” and so on. We started to hang out and explore our new country together.
Not long after that, I started my first Dutch course and it was very international. Here I met Claire, who became one of my best friends until today. It’s how it works, you meet someone and then through that person you meet someone else, and so on. I remember my first Easter Monday in The Netherlands, when I was invited to join a bike tour with a small group of “new” friends and I ended up with a group of 30 people. Of course, you will not keep in touch with everyone throughout the years, but among all these people and friends, you might meet the ones who will stick around and even become your best friends.
Also here my mantra comes back to you: either you do it…. or you do it! When you move abroad alone, it’s up to you also to get out there and make the step to meet new people and start your own circle. It is a matter of making an effort and making sure that certain things happen.
It’s very difficult to choose one and, if I must be honest, I would say that THE best experience is the whole expat journey, from the start until today. But if I have to pick one thing, then I must talk about my au-pair family for sure. They were amazing and helped me a lot in settling down here with the right foot, which of course made my beginning very positive and exciting. It all started from there and with them, so definitely it is one of the best experiences for me.
We always say that, as much as the expat life gives you excitement and joy, it brings you also many challenging moments as well. I remember this moment during the end of my first year in The Netherlands, when I was struggling in finding a job. It was also the beginning of my working career, so I didn’t have many years behind my back, which didn’t really help. My small savings were almost gone, I needed a job and at that moment I really didn’t know what to do. But I knew I didn’t want to go back to Italy (I actually was not even thinking about it as an option) and luckily I didn’t.
If you ask me, yes... I would do it all over again! 🙂