As the daughter of a diplomat I'm used to saying goodbye

At the end of every two years, my parents remind me to pack my belongings and I realise that the time has come again for me to say goodbye to my existing surroundings and start again in my new home.

From South Korea to Germany, from the United States to Israel, from Venezuela to Uruguay; I've followed my Dad, a diplomat, since the age of three. Travelling is a huge part of my life. I pack and unpack boxes whenever the government tells us to move.

The whole thing was confusing when I was little. I didn't understand why I had to leave while my friends stayed behind, or why I had to learn new customs and traditions.

It could also make studying tough. When I first moved to Germany, I picked up German from my teachers and peers in a local kindergarten even before I was able to fully grasp my native language, Korean. But just when I started to speak and understand German, we moved to Monterey, California, where I was taught English. For the next couple of years, I struggled to learn the language, as I often got confused with the grammatical rules.

Learning about different languages and cultures as I moved around was one of my biggest challenges, but it has been a major part of my personal growth.

Wasil Rezk, an Egyptian student who has lived in eight different countries, says: "Travelling has allowed me to learn about different cultures and people. I noticed how generalisations and stereotypes can make us blind to the truth."

My biggest transition in life was when I first set foot in a Caracas, Venezuela, where I lived before moving to Uruguay - my current home. It was my first time in a Latin American country, so I had no idea what kind of experience Venezuela would give me over the next two years.

When you initially arrive in a new country, culture shock is something that will make you a temporary introvert. But once you become used to your surroundings, you get comfortable pretty quickly.

Jade Johnson, an international student who has lived in Switzerland, Mozambique, Uruguay, England and Bermuda, says: "When I first came to Uruguay from Bermuda, I had the habit of saying hello to strangers walking past me on the streets because almost everyone knew each other in Bermuda. But I dropped the habit afterwards for the fear of accidentally offending them.

"I overcame culture shock by going out and meeting new people. I realised that focusing on the past would not allow me to move forward. So I decided to be strong and deal with it."

Moving around never gave me much time to develop deep relationships with my friends. When I finally got to know someone, it was always time to say goodbye. I would often to cry for days when I was younger, as I would miss my friends. Now it's much easier to keep in touch via social media. A couple of years ago I found my friends from Germany again on Facebook. It was an amazing feeling to hear from them again.

At the end of every experience in a new country, I feel like I've grown a little more open-minded and accepting. I never thought that I would get used to Venezuela, but I ended up falling in love with the place and the community. I now openly embrace whatever changes await me because I know that I will learn from the experience.

Lorena Leon, a student from the US who has studied abroad in Germany and Uruguay, says: "When I was moving to Uruguay, I had convinced myself that I would make it through the four years of my high school without making any friends, but that was not the case.

"Now I'm back in the States after four years, and I feel like my own country is a strange place because I've been so used to how things work in Uruguay."

All of us will leave the house or place that we call home at least once in our lifetime whether for university, a relocation, or a job. We may be homesick or surprised by what we experience in a new place. But these feelings are only temporary, and we will find ourselves at home.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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