Tips on Surviving Your First Year Abroad

Moving abroad is something most people only dream of, so when it actually happens the focus tends to be on the move itself, finding somewhere to live, and settling in. But what happens beyond that initial stage?

If you’re anything like me, I had a few goals when I moved abroad: learn more about the culture, travel throughout Europe, and gain some international work experience. But there were also other parts that I was less sure about – like making friends, how my relationships at home would be impacted, and if I would become out of the loop of what was going on in the United States and my local area.

In the end, I survived my first year abroad – and I know you can too. Here are tips on what helped me make it through.

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Hiking with new friends in Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Make New Friends

Making new friends is an important step in starting your life abroad. Not only will these people be who you spend your free time with, but they will become your support system away from home.

I made friends through a variety of ways. I used social websites like and to find social activities – like hiking and happy hour – where I was able to meet people. I joined a gym and went regularly enough to start recognizing people (ha!). I connected with colleagues and made an effort to see them outside of the office. I asked friends at home to connect me with people they knew in London. I also rented out the second bedroom of my flat twice during the year, and ended up becoming close with both the people I lived with.

These people – my new friends – were often invaluable in keeping me from feeling lonely.

Find A Community

When I moved to London, I chose a neighborhood to live in, Stoke Newington, that felt like a community to me. I had my local grocery store underneath my flat, my go-to Turkish take out down the street, a pub around the corner, and a huge park up the street. Feeling a sense of community and pride in where I lived made me happier with my living situation.

Karen and I: American expats in London

Interact with Fellow Countryman

If all else fails – find your own people. When I first moved abroad, a few friends from home connected me with Americans they knew in London. This resulted in me having a few contacts pretty early on. Especially in the early adjusting period of moving abroad, having people you are culturally similar to can help you feel more normal about figuring out your new homeland.

Keep Up With News at Home and Abroad

Not only did I read and try to understand the news in England when I lived there (Brexit anyone?), but I also made sure to keep up with news in the United States (this isn’t too hard, as U.S. news tends to make it worldwide). My hometown also has a local news website, so I read that from time to time to see what was happening.

Celebrate Your Holidays

It’s often not realistic to fly home for every holiday, so if the choice is to ignore the holiday or celebrate it – I say celebrate! Despite living in London, I still found 4th of July celebrations to attend, and I was invited to Thanksgiving with other expat friends.

Being able to celebrate holidays that I’ve grown up with even in my foreign home made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on not actually being at home.

My sister, her friend, and I in front of Westminster Abbey

Invite Your Friends and Family

Instead of visiting your friends at home once you’ve moved abroad – have them come to visit you! In my first year abroad, I had several guests come visit and I loved having the opportunity to show them around (I covered A LOT of London’s tourist sites this way!). I was also able to show them my new life in England and give them more of a locals look at the city that they may not have experienced otherwise.

My first time to the Baltics: Exploring Vilnius, Lithuania

Explore Where You Are

Travel! Considering I started an entire blog to document my traveling when living abroad, you can imagine how much of an impact that this had on keeping me busy and feeling fulfilled.

I not only made an effort to see a lot of Europe since it was usually a cheap and short flight (or train ride) away, but I also traveled a lot within England as well. Day trips and weekend trips within England allowed me to see what the country had to offer and gain a better understanding of the culture and history.

Bath, England: Learning about England’s Roman history

Learn About Your New Culture

I may not know everything about the Tudors, but I certainly know a lot more about English history and culture that I did before moving there. Some of it was learned over time of living there, but I also would visit museums, heritage sites, and historical locations to learn more. I made an effort to learn about the history, and assimilate where possible into the culture.

Realize That You’ll Be Just Fine

It’s okay to miss your old home and simultaneously love your new one.

Do you have any tips for living abroad? Which of these helped you the most?


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