The plane was 13000 meters in the air and everyone was sleeping. The few mini-bottles of wine I was drinking, hoping I would fall asleep, didn't help too much. The mixed feelings I was dealing with and the questions I had no answers for, kept me awake the whole flight. I was going home, I was going to my safe place, the place where I grew up, where my family and all my friends were waiting for me, and yet I had knots in my stomach thinking about landing. There was a part of me which didn't want to go home, a part of me which wanted to stay in China. Have you ever missed someone so much you couldn't wait to see them but in the same time you felt like something isn't right? The 4 months I spent in China felt like an eternity away from the loved ones and I couldn't wait to get home, but once I was on my way home I realized that's not what I really want. In case you haven't read about how I got to China, here is the article ''Why China''.
Everyone was so excited to have me back. Grandma baked my favorite cake, my sister took me for shopping, friends were calling and wanted to see me, but nothing could beat the happiness in my boyfriend's eyes when he saw me. He hugged me so tight telling me to never go away from him again, that I almost started crying. I tried to convince myself there's nothing more important than them and staying home is the best decision I can take, but I was lying to myself, all I wanted was to go back to China.
I had two options. Option number one: stay at home where you have everything you need, cool friends, a loving boyfriend, a supporting family, a cute dog, chances to get a secure job and go to vacations every summer, I mean isn't that what everyone wants? Or, option number two: go back to the place where you had so much fun, but this time you'll have to be on your own. No friends, no scholarship, no travels, nothing. How are you going to survive socially and financially without even speaking English?
I guess you already know which option I went for.
Next two months were filled with joy, laughter, excitement, good vibes, sadness, fear, worries, I went through every possible mood and on August 30 2015, I was already on a plane back to China. I felt relieved, I felt like there's nothing can go wrong, I thought I would get back to the campus and everything was going to be like before, fun and exciting.
Now comes the fun part. Somehow I failed to realize I didn't have friends there and the language barrier would make it difficult for me to interact with people. I just realized that in those 4 months I, Oana, didn't really have a conversation in English with anyone. I was mostly speaking Romanian with Christian and Mark and when I needed to say something I would ask them for help, but this time they weren't there anymore.
So how it's like to be on your own in a foreign country, without friends, without support, without speaking the language? For some might be difficult, for others might be terrifying, but for me was challenging. The idea of going home and admit that everyone was right saying I can't live by myself away from home, terrified me more than the idea of staying. I wanted to prove them wrong so I had to get completely out of my comfort zone and make the best out of it. And I did it! Of course I had bad days, days when I felt like I can't do it, days when I wanted to just go home , days when I felt lonely, but somehow I managed to make friends within days, get used with the food within weeks, and speak English within months. 5 months later I still couldn't say much in Chinese, but my English was good enough to get a job, get a boyfriend and make some friends. The type of friends you will always remember, which will always have a special place in your heart, friends from different parts of the world which you don't have much in common with, but they all go through same thing and somehow it just clicks.
To really blend in, while living abroad, look for people which don't share the same language, the same culture, the same background like you. I can't stress enough how important this is! I know so many cases where people moved to a new country and they chose to hang out just with their compatriots. I mean, you share the same mentality, how are you supposed to grow, to understand, to see a different way, when you surround yourself with the same people? You might be surprised how many misconceptions you lived with once you start listening to others. We all carry misinformation and stereotypes about different cultures, that's why is crucial to expand your horizons and interact with people regardless their race, nationality, ethnicity or religion.
Fast-forward 4 year later, China already became my home, my safe place, I knew all the insights, I got used to its culture, to people, to food, even to the chaotic traffic, I had everything I needed. Friends became like family, the Chinese language wasn't a problem anymore, I could travel anywhere without problem, I had it easy and I liked it. The moment I felt comfortable with the same routine, I realized I'm in the comfort zone and I had to move on.
Looking back, it seemed so easy to go through all that. But the truth is, it's never easy to give up on your routine and go somewhere you don't know what's going to wait for you, to dive into unknown without plans, hoping everything will fall into place. 7 months ago I did it again. Without looking back, I left China and moved to Austria. ''Austria? Great! That's not far from your home'', everyone said to me. But where is home actually? Is it the place you grew up? The place where your family is? The place where your heart is? The place where you feel safe? Well, I'm still trying to figure it out. The point is, once again, I got out of my comfort zone and moved somewhere else. No friends, no job, no knowledge of German language, but this time I wasn't completely alone, my boyfriend was there for me. I thought this time will be easier and I won't deal with the same emotions I dealt when I got to China, but I did.
Moving to another country has a mental, emotional and physical impact. What I learned from my experience is that doesn't matter how open you are, doesn't matter where you go, doesn't matter who you have next to you, the chances are you will experience anxiety, stress, fear or concern. This happens when you make a significant change in your life or enter an unfamiliar environment. It's impossible to grow and learn while stuck inside your comfort zone, so don't be afraid to do something that scares you.
An important lesson I learned in all these years is that taking risks helps you to discover your true self. Today is my 7th day in Hungary. Exactly one week ago I moved here and things aren't going exactly how I hoped, my first experiences aren't up to my expectations, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it and I find it quite challenging to live here, but in the end it's just about perspective and your ability to adapt to a new environment. I'll come back with a post about Hungary once I learn more about this country and its culture. Can't wait to tell you all about it ! Kisses !