It was my first time to be away from home for this long, 5 months to be exact. I used to be a researcher and I am used to being in the field for a few days or weeks but I have not been out of my country this long. So the first few weeks I have been in Vienna, Austria, I was overwhelmed by the new environment, culture, and the beauty of the city in general.
A few months after, I started feeling exhausted and frustrated with the language and the way of life itself. I find it difficult to go to stores, shop, and go to places on my own. I had a hard time learning the language the first few months and I got exhausted of being surrounded by non-English speakers most of the time. It was frustrating when people around you couldn’t understand you most of the time and I felt lonely and sad.
Having no people to call friends, no relatives, and no job to get me motivated in going out, one day I found myself wondering who I used to be. I lost my sense of self and I couldn’t tell what I like, want, or prefer anymore. Nothing seems to remind me of what I used to be, used to have, and what I wanted in life. I felt lonely, alone, and sad.
The following helped me gather myself up and face the challenges and difficulties:
1. Talk. It was helpful for me when I started talking about my feelings, struggles, and dreams to have in the future. I tried calling up close friends who are halfway across the world and I have tried writing journals and diaries for my own consumption. The key here is to let things out of your chest. It was very helpful when I started having good conversations with old friends about life or just about nothing at all. It was really great to talk about silly things and just had a good laugh.
2. Love yourself. Sounds easy but it is quite difficult when you are quite confuse just like me. I find ways to appreciate myself more, acknowledge both fears and happiness I have, and every little step I make to cope with my everyday life. Some people say talking to yourself in the mirror helps too. But for me, just by acknowledging everything I do and every little milestone I accomplish is big enough for me to get through every single day.\
3. Look for support. Try opening up to the people you trust and the people who can lend you their ears without pushing their own beliefs and standards. The least you need is to have people telling you that you are not handling things right. You would need someone who understands where you are coming from and willingly listen to the same stories you would tend to say over and over again. It sounds easy but I find it difficult too.
4. Go out. Get some fresh air and take a walk in the park when the weather is fine. Listen to the chirping birds, kids playing the playgrounds, or just enjoy the scenery. Most parks are beautiful especially the trees and the flowers. Or you can try joining local organizations or groups in your area. Instead of enhancing your online presence by spending most of your time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, go out instead, and look for people you can chat with or talk to in person. For me, I tried taking a language course and I find it really nice to talk to people who share the same sentiments with me. Exercise and other activities help alleviate the feeling of being alone and lonely in a new city. Exercising for example, produces, what people call a natural pain reliever, endorphins which can make a lot of difference in coping with stressful or challenging situations. It is produced by the nervous system that helps people deal with pain, stress, moodiness, fatigue, anxiety, etc.
5. Find your way. Start embracing the culture and the way of life. Find time to explore the city on your own. it is liberating to be independent and be able to go to places without fear. Take your time, no one has to hurry, and take one step at a time. Read newspapers, be aware of the current events, learn about their culture or way of life. I think the thing here is to enable yourself to get integrated.
I know it is not easy and there are times you would still feel alienated. Give yourself time to adjust and get familiar with the new environment. Time will come detachment, stress, and confusion get better. Laugh at small things, be silly or crazy, have fun, and never ever forget to celebrate every milestone you accomplish.