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Tips for living and working abroad alone

January 27, 2011

Did you have fun today?A friend asked me the other day whether she should accept an offer to work and live abroad for 3-4 months. She would have weekends off, accommodation and food provided as well as a regular not-bad salary. I told her to take it as it seemed such a good deal and in this current work climate, better than doing nothing (which is what you are doing essentially even if you are job-hunting). She had reservations due to a past experience of living abroad on her own for a long period. Long story short, I came up with both pros and cons, the biggest con being it would be mentally hard to be by myself in a foreign country with limited means of communication. Let’s just say the pros outweighed the cons.

Here are ways to combat living alone and not find yourself in a big fat lull of repetitiveness:

  • Find out where the social hotspots are such as cafes, clubs and concerts. Talk to the locals, even everyday people you see like sales assistants in stores for advice and recommendations. The best places to go to are usually ones only local people know of, you’d be surprised how willing they are to help.
  • Taking up extra-curricular activities and hobbies is a another great way to make new friends, learn a new skill and keep yourself occupied.
  • Don’t just check out the touristy parts of the country but go to where you would likely be able to find like-minded individuals like yourself, e.g. if you are a student, check and hang out in areas with universities, or if you are a sports enthusiast (or not even) go to places with tennis courts, race tracks, local sports clubs, etc.
  • Be in the know about local events, festivals, concerts and promotions. These can be done while you are there or even better, before you leave!
  • Other things you can pre-prepare for your time abroad is to bring down-time material such as books, laptop with ready collection of films, etc. Keeping yourself productive for those alone times will help stave off homesickness and loneliness.
  • Beginning a project of your own such as a blog, scrapbook or even book is another way to focus your energies and occupy yourself productively. Whilst blogging about your experience is good, what’s even better is making the project more specific and unique to yourself. For example, my friend is fanatical about dramas so I suggested a blog or photo blog of places where common cliché scenes are shot in or even finding famous places from dramas (if you’re lucky enough to go to a country where this is possible). Be imaginative, creative and adventurous with it.
  • Be brave. This might sound silly but being in a foreign country not knowing anyone is both an advantage as well as a disadvantage. The fact you will leave soon (if it is certain and usually it is) means that you can be more yourself or in some cases, more not-yourself. Don’t be afraid to divert from the norms and do something you normally wouldn’t do.
  • Live like you’re dying. Ok, this might be a bit extreme but what we should take from Kris Allen’s song is a similar feeling of not taking anything for granted. Here, it is time. Whether you’re abroad a few months or a year, you should go about asking yourself, ‘what else haven’t i done? What do i want to do?’ The time you have abroad will end so you should see every spare time as some kind of opportunity.

Being prepared beforehand plays a big part in all of this of course unless you are sure you have enough time (on top of your work there) to do so. Main thing is to enjoy yourself!

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