In my short 18 years of life, I have resided in three different countries, with three different cultures, and lived three different lives. Sounds mysterious, but I intend to let you know all about it and how to approach the life of an immigrant.
Immigration is not all the glitz and glam it is made out to be. It is a long ride of discovery and stress. However, things will become right with your world after a while and I intend to give you a few tips to help you out. I have lived in South Africa, New Zealand and the UK. I have extensive experience in changing my life. It is not easy, so strap yourself in and prepare for a reality check.
“It’s one of the most stressful experiences you will ever face”
First of all, immigration is one of the most stressful experiences you will ever face. This is something you will have to understand right after you make the decision to move. To sum up, everything is new and scary. Immigration is filled with heightened anxiety and stress, and you will be facing challenges that normal residents will not.
I, unfortunately, fell into the awful trap of believing that the other side was filled with rainbows. This was not the case. Everyone told me what an adventure it was going to be, what a fabulous time I was going to have, and how amazing my life was going to turn out! I was silly enough to take them seriously…
Yes, you need optimism and excitement to set yourself up, but the romanticised belief that everything was going to turn out absolutely perfect all the time? Well, I can assure you that it won’t be. Brutal, but true. So please, do not expect your journey to be completely smooth, you will have highs and lows, but do not just let yourself think about the highs and prepare yourself for the lows.
Your history and understanding of the world as you know will be significantly different to your new peers.
You were raised as a child in your native country. Your friends, teachers and co-workers all lived in the same environment as you. When you say goodbye to them, you are also saying goodbye to all that is familiar. You will most likely feel left out for a while in your new home. When I entered high school as a South African child, the New Zealanders scared me. They were so different. So many jokes that I didn’t understand. Events that happened in the country that I had no idea about. They shared a common upbringing.
Overall, I was an outsider for a bit. I felt invisible. I didn’t have anything to add. This is normal and you will feel like this. It takes time to build a history, and you will eventually be able to relate to them. Prepare yourself to feel this way, and maybe come up with a few things that you can use to relate to them.
Don’t lose who you are.
In the efforts to fit in, you may find yourself dropping aspects out of your personality that is specifically from your original home. Be proud of who you are. Just because people may not understand your history, it is a huge part of who you are. Embrace your differences. I struggled with this myself. I lost my accent within 6 months and worked hard to completely immerse myself in the culture around me; in turn, forgetting the South African child I was. Get involved, but don’t allow it to change the most exciting and exotic parts of yourself. They are so special. The people around are a big part of who you are. Without them, you may feel lost. But the most important thing that I have learnt is that you can make your own family. You will get to determine who your family is. This is such a special privilege. All I can say is pick carefully. Pick people who love you for you and all your exoticness. You are a gift to their country and expect to be treated like one. You are now at home which you have every right to be. Good luck. Life will be tricky for a while and you will face many new and challenging ideas. But you have the strength to overcome anything in your way, and will do so with the flare of your old home