Apr 8, 2024

Moving Abroad Alone… Again

Hosanna Boulter on learning to trust herself on Erasmus

Hosanna BoulterNews Editor
Photo via CN Traveller

I am standing in a crowded and sweaty basement student bar in the Netherlands talking to a new friend. I hear myself say, “It’s not that we are not feeling all of the things that you are, it’s just that we know that these feelings are temporary”. As soon as the words leave my mouth, I am sort of internally amazed by them. In that moment I had said aloud something that I was yet to realise – I was finding the process of moving abroad as a student smoother the second time round.

 The friend I was talking to was telling me how homesick they felt. They explained how they believed that everyone else was so together (myself included) whilst they were flailing and it was detracting from their exchange experience. Having it all together is not something that I have often been accused of, so it took me a bit by surprise. 

Moving abroad on your own in your early twenties to a place where you have only been once and where you know virtually no one (in my case I knew one person) is an inherently uncomfortable and discombobulating experience. Doing it a second time only has confirmed this for me. The avalanche of new information thrown your way much of which is highly important and consequential to your stay in that country is exhausting to process. In fact, over the course of my exchange I have found myself sleeping far more than I am used to. As exhilarating and adrenaline-inducing as the experience has been, I have also found myself perhaps more tired than ever.


However, there is one major difference I discovered moving abroad this time round. That distinction is that, although I feel as fearful and apprehensive as I did the first time, I have developed a confidence in the temporary nature of such overwhelming feelings. I can reassure myself that these feelings are all part of a process and, crucially, that this is a process I have successfully completed before.

During my first few weeks in the Netherlands, I found myself trying to celebrate the small things: the first time I didn’t have to use Google Maps to find my faculty or the supermarket, discovering my new favourite coffee shop, or decoding the library seat booking system. Last time around I was in such a rush for familiarity and to be “settled” – whatever that means – that I did not enjoy the excitement of discovery.

It should also be noted that I am two years older than I was the last time I attempted this. I am not going to claim to have exponentially grown up in that relatively short amount of time. But, I do think that I have got to know myself better since I first left home. For instance, I know now that I really enjoy unfamiliarity. In fact, I get a thrill from new places and experiences. So, over these past two months I have tried to hold onto that feeling, I am committed to trying new places out or saying yes to travel (as long as my budget permits). As of writing, this is something that has led me to Vienna and Budapest, two places on my bucket list that I had no idea I would be able to visit at the start of my exchange.

I haven’t cracked the code for moving abroad on your own. Some days were tough and all I wanted was to be around people who would not require background information – who would know precisely what I needed to hear. Calls, FaceTimes and long text chats help in this regard, but we all know it is not the same. Instead, what I am trying to reflect on is how my approach has changed. I feel that I am in less of a rush and simply trying to enjoy these few short months in a place I may never return to. This is a perspective I want to bring back for my final year in Dublin in the hopes of making the most of my other home-away-from-home.

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