The Days Can Get Long…And the Months Longer…

Hei hei friends and family! (Hei hei is a Finnish greeting) I wanted to open up about some of the struggles and difficulties that come with moving abroad. There are things that people don’t want to talk about because they think it’ll make them look weak to others, or make it look like they can’t handle it. But the truth is, we all struggle sometimes. We all need a little extra help sometimes and it’s really hard to ask for it. While I wouldn’t trade my decision to play internationally, I do want to talk about some more realistic things that players starting out may not always realize or think about.

The opportunity to play overseas is a very appealing one for a person who loves the sport they play. It allows for a continuation of playing, you don’t have to stop and get a “real adult job.” As well as getting the chance to adventure to foreign countries and the appeal of visiting far off places. It also allows for a great, and currently the only, opportunity to continue growing as a player after college if you have exciting dreams of an Olympic debut. If you have the travel bug like I do, plus for those of you that know me well, I also have that dream of making myself the best I can, then playing overseas is an automatic yes. There’s no question about it for me. For many players the allure is simply in playing and adventuring foreign places, which is amazing as well!

The real talk comes when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by people that don’t willing speak your language, most can’t, and you are living in a brand new city where nothing is familiar, except maybe the McDonalds (which even that has weird things on the menu). Your family and friends, everyone you knew, are now thousands of miles away instead of a few minutes or hours: and you are now living there for close to 9 months, good luck!

The honest truth is that moving abroad can get lonely. It is a constant process of reaching out, making friends with teammates, finding things to do on free days, and filling the hours of the days. I have found that while people are generally very nice, it comes down to you to make the effort to hang out with people. You have to be the one to reach out, you have to be the one to make plans and ask people to come along. Most of your teammates still have their friends and family that they make plans with, its normal for them and they don’t always invite an American that only speaks English because it’s somewhat of a burden to ask them to speak English all the time just for our sake. Nor should we ask them to always speak English just to accommodate us, we moved to their country.

If you are naturally a shy person, this part becomes very hard. I will say it has been easier for me, because if people are busy, I don’t mind, I just go explore on my own. Last year I got lost a lot, I ended up some amazing places because of it, but I am not a person that always has to be around someone to find happiness. I have no issues reaching out and asking people to go do things with me, if they say no, then they say no, oh well. But that is the kind of person I am. Not everybody is ok with that. There are people that like to have people around all the time. They like to have someone to talk to all the time, they need someone to confide in and ask things. They like having that comfort of having great friends when they need them. Living overseas, you suddenly have to find and make new great friends. As we all know, this process takes time, and that time to build those relationships can be hard. It can also be more complicated by the fact that you might be the only American on the team, so no ones first language is English.

My biggest advice, don’t live in a single apartment alone. While living alone has many appealing aspects, we all like to have our own personal space! However, it also makes the time abroad a lot more lonely, and takes a lot more effort to plan things to go do. I have found so far, that living with a roommate sort of gives you an automatic friend. It gives you someone to talk to all the time, someone to be with, and it’s really easy to look across the couch and say “hey, let’s go grab coffee.” Of course, living alone gives you a lot of freedom in what you do, and you don’t have to deal with the typical “roommate problems.” So by all means if you love having your own space and hate living with other people because they don’t always do the dishes then I totally feel you! But I highly recommend, especially your first year abroad, to allow your contract to place you with a teammate as a flatmate.

Living abroad on your own can really change who you are. It changes the things you have to be comfortable with doing, it changes how you see yourself, and it actually forces you to be more outgoing. For many, this is really hard. It’s hard to learn how to define yourself outside of your college friends and your family. You have completely new influences and you have to learn how to navigate how you will respond entirely on your own. This can be really exciting and this can be absolutely terrifying. We can suddenly react based on our deep down beliefs and intentions, instead on how old friends have always seen us. We don’t always know what those deep down beliefs are, but the new journey in finding those is a really fun one. I can tell you 100% that I do not view things the same as I did in college. Being immersed in different cultures has given me a lot of perspective and a lot of gratitude in the life I get to live. So while it can be scary, it is totally worth every new adventure, good and bad.

 

Much Love,

 

Middle from the Middle

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