The Challenges of Living Abroad

By Yvonne;

I am currently living abroad and have been for nearly three consecutive years. My home country is the United States, and I have only been back for one visit in 2019. I started my journey in South Korea in 2014 and have been back and forth several times since then.

I have struggled with mental health for as long as I can remember. However, I mostly “had it under control” until mid-2019. I now know that I probably didn’t have it under control at all, but 2019 was a bursting point for me. I had neglected my needs for long enough, and it was time to pay.

I remember after having a particularly bad breakdown, a trusted superior of mine asked me if I would be better off back home in the United States. After all, mental health care was more “widely accepted” there and a bit less stigmatized. I truly weighed the pros and cons, and decided, in the end, that I wouldn’t be happy even if I changed my environment. While the environment was a huge stressor in my life, I knew that the stress of uprooting myself again would make things worse.

One of the biggest stressors in living abroad is the feeling that you lack competency. Especially here in South Korea, it can be difficult to be a fully functioning human when you do not speak the local language. I have made many efforts to study and expand my language skills, but no amount of it seems to be enough for me to navigate healthcare or veterinary care. A sense of uselessness washes over me as I struggle to communicate my needs to doctors and veterinarians when my animals or I get sick. It can really chip away at one’s sense of self worth. As time has gone on, I have managed to find ways to fight this. I have formed a small network of trusted care providers and professionals that are able to communicate with me and work with me through issues. Getting to a point where I can bravely enter a new facility and get the help I need has helped boost my confidence tremendously.

I have also formed amazing friendships and bonds during my time abroad. It’s been so empowering to meet people from all walks of life. The individuals that have withstood the test of time, I know, will be lifelong friends. While saying good-bye to friends as contracts expire has been sad, I am so amazed that some of the people I met back in 2014 are still in contact with me today.

While I have battled loneliness throughout my time here, I have also gained independence that I never knew was possible. Before coming to Korea, I had severe social anxiety that kept me from doing many things alone. I always needed a trusted individual with me when I was out in public. I rarely spent any time alone in my home. Living in Korea forced me to get acquainted with my own company. It forced me to learn how to live with myself and to keep myself entertained. It wasn’t easy at first. I filled most of my weekends with activities with coworkers and friends. I was never resting. However, in recent years, restful weekends alone have become a sort of sanctuary when I am socially exhausted.

To all of my fellow nomads, you are so strong and brave for doing what you have done. If you have also struggled with solitude while being far away from your friends and family, know that you will only gain from your experiences here.

Yvonne; S.Korea
7 Dec, 2021

Author: Workers' Archive

Covering sensitivity at work and beyond on my website:

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