Moving abroad alone: ‘You wonder why you are leaving everyone who has ever loved you’
There were tears, homesickness and loneliness- but it’s the best thing I ever did
Mairead McDonough: The bad days are testing and there were many of those in the beginning
Moving to a new country on your own is incredibly daunting. With every last goodbye drawing your departure closer and closer, you tend to wonder why you are leaving everyone who has ever loved you to go to somewhere where none of these people will be.
This time last year I was in planning mode. I had finished my degree, worked for a year and was trying to gauge where my friends were going. When I realised that their plans for travel and mine didn’t quite align, I was faced with the scary thought of going on my own. Before I knew it I was hugging my parents goodbye and crying my way through Dublin Airport with a one-way ticket to Australia.
Ten months later and here I am in Melbourne, living and working and loving it. I do not for a second regret moving here on my own, although I do realise my good fortune in light of all the challenges I have faced so far. I was lucky to have had a job before I left Ireland, which gave me an immense sense of stability and a date to work towards. The kindness of distant family and family friends here in the early days was a lifeline. Without them, I quite literally would have been lost. They helped me find a place to live, advised me on what to wear on my first day of work, and even strapped a mattress to their car and drove it across the city so I didn’t have to pay for delivery. I found a place to live in a nice area that isn’t too far from work, with a housemate who has now become a true friend. Least of all, I joined a company with lots of kind, funny and supportive people who I now depend on and call my friends.
The bad days are testing and there were many of those in the beginning. Building the bed frame for my mattress on my own was one of the most mentally challenging tasks I’ve ever endured. The hilarity and stress of hammering one corner together for the other corner to fall down tried my patience many times that day. I laughed at how physically impossible it felt and cried at how many times it fell apart. Eventually, using all sorts of random household objects to keep each plank in place, I did it. I built the bed on my own!
Homesickness hit me hard, and there was no escaping it. When you are new to a place and have no one to meet up with, you tend to walk around aimlessly, acutely aware of how lonely it feels. One day, when I first arrived, I wandered around the department store Myers and suddenly becoming overwhelmed with the fact that I was on my own. That no one in the shop knew me, that barely anyone in the city knew me, and that everyone that I wanted to be with was on the other side of the world.
I darted to the bathrooms where I cried (and cried, and cried). I WhatsApped family and friends, but of course, everyone was asleep. When I eventually got it together I walked back to the tram stop, stepped in chewing gum, cried again and made my way home. I couldn’t sleep or eat, and thought that this miserable feeling would never end but then all of a sudden it did. Somehow I knew I was going to be ok. The homesick storm had passed. At this stage it was four days until Christmas, 28 degrees and there was nothing left to cry about.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that people can be really kind and open themselves up to you when they know you are completely alone. My work friends, who I barely knew at the time, went out of their way to bring me shopping so I could get something nice to wear to the Christmas party. I’ve learned that random acts of kindness can go a long way when you are the one on the receiving end. Whether it is someone genuinely concerned when asking you “how are you getting on”, or an offer to drive you home from work on Christmas Eve (and every day since), the world in which you stand at a given time seems to offer itself to you in new and inviting ways. People do not realise the rippling effect of their own goodness, and I didn’t realise how therapeutic a good laugh could be. I landed in a supportive hub, and although it took me a little while to realise and feel it, I have been grateful for it everyday since.
Nearly a year on, I am proud of myself. There have been many wobblers along the way but moving to Melbourne is the best thing I have ever done. I miss my family and friends every day, but cannot imagine my life in any other place right now.
If you are contemplating a similar move, go for it. Put all your doubts to one side and believe in yourself. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go home.