Things I Thought I Knew About Living Abroad

A few weeks ago I became a Foreign Correspondent for Pink Pangea, a travel blog for women. My role is to write various articles about my time in Israel and whatever I think women traveling to Israel should know. My first post just went up to day, so I’m copying it here for you all to read. Enjoy!

When I graduated from college last year, I knew I wasn’t ready for the typical 9-5 work grind. So when I was accepted into Israel Teaching Fellows, a year long fellowship teaching English in Israel, I knew I had to take it. I would be working the rest of my life, and there was no need to start when I was only 21. I did not view it as taking a year off, but rather taking a year for myself to travel and explore. I didn’t study abroad as an undergrad, but I was finally ready to move away from home and experience another culture while I still had the opportunity to do so. When I boarded the plan from Newark, NJ with three oversized bags and butterflies in my stomach, I also carried with me a set list of expectations about moving across the world for a year. Now, after passing the half way-point on my program, I’ve realized none of those expectations became reality.

I’ll grow apart from family and friends at home.

  • A friend recently asked me if I’ve gotten homesick since moving here, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. Yes, I miss my family and friends. I cringe whenever I see family photos or watch snapchat stories of my friends from the night before. But I almost feel closer to loved ones at home since I’ve moved here, especially my parents. When I away at school (a mere three hour drive from my hometown), I spoke to my parents maybe once a week, a short “hi, yes I’m alive, goodbye”, type of phone call. But now, I spend 30-40 minutes at least twice a week catching up with my parents. We talk more about what I’m actually doing, really communicating with one another. It’s hard not being able to call mom or dad whenever I want because of the time difference, but when we do talk it’s always a memorable conversation. I feel closer to them even though we are thousands of miles apart.

I wouldn’t make close friendships.

  • We’ve all heard that once we graduate from college making new friends is hard. So when I moved here, I was scared I wouldn’t make close friends or even an acquaintance to grab a coffee with in the morning. I should have known that living with three other girls from my program and having 15 more just minutes away meant I would never be lonely. But it’s more than just physically being around them. My roommates have grown to be some of my closest friends here who I will definitely keep in touch with. We’re all so different but have so much in common: Iris from Minnesota (still in the US but different time zones so it counts, right?), Kayleigh from South Africa, and Mona from Australia. Not only have I made good friends while living abroad, I am learning so much about different people and customs all over the world.

I could plan everything.

  • If my best friend could describe me in three words, but one of them had to be bad, what would they be? My answer: talkative, bubbly, and anxious. Everyone knows that I like to plan out every little detail of my day, from when I will go for a run, cook dinner, and take a shower. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spontaneity; I just don’t embrace it as much as I should. So when I moved to Israel I thought it would be exactly the same. Wrong. Israelis are laid back, leaving many things to the last minute. They are adaptable and flexible to change. Living here has helped me develop these qualities. If I get to school and find out my first three classes are cancelled because of a field trip, oh well, I just have to change my schedule. I no longer sweat the small stuff.

I’d never eat a good meal again.

  • “I can’t cook.” A phrase I used all throughout college and my first few months in Israel. An explanation for why I ate frozen foods or cereal for dinner. But I soon realized that “can’t” was just a substitution for I’m too lazy to take the time to cook. Turns out following a recipe isn’t that hard. A few weeks ago I made homemade mac and cheese. I had to send pictures to friends to convince them that it was actually made from scratch. Since then I’ve made a few other homemade dishes, proving that with just a little bit of motivation, dinner doesn’t have to come from cardboard box.

It’s a problem that I’m not saving any money.

  • One of my biggest concerns about moving to Israel and living off of a small monthly stipend was that I wouldn’t be saving any money. Not only that, but I also would be dipping into my insignificant savings fund. But, I soon realized, who cares? I am having the time of my life. When else am I going to have the opportunity to take a day trip to a kibbutz down south or spend the weekend traveling in the North? Yeah I’ll never see that extra 300 dollars I withdrew from my savings before Sukkot vacation. But it bought me a visit to Akko, some amazing hummus from the famous Hummus Sayid, three nights’ stay in a hostel, and some pretty awesome memories. I’ve learned there’s no better way to spend my money than travelling and exploring the amazing country I get to live in right now.

Party, party, party every night.

  • In reality I go to bed by 10 on the weekdays, and usually around midnight on the weekends. And that’s ok. Yes I am living in a foreign country and it’s tempting to go to Tel Aviv every night of the week to eat at cool restaurants or dance at clubs. But after a day on my feet, chasing children, my bed and Netflix are always a much more appealing option. In college I seriously worried about the status of my social life if I didn’t go out every Thursday-Saturday. But I just don’t care here. I’m not here to go out and get wasted all the time. Not saying it isn’t fun occasionally, but it is just as acceptable to curl up in bed after a long day with a cup of tea and my most recent Netflix binge.

Learning the language would be easy.

  • Ha, I laugh at myself for ever thinking this. I had practiced some Hebrew the summer before I moved here, so I thought I was halfway to fluent upon my arrival. More like I had the abilities of a first grader. Learning a language is hard, especially a language with a totally different alphabet. I slowly started to make some progress, but it’s definitely frustrating. Even if I go into a store and speak some muffled words in Hebrew the clerk will detect my accent and answer me in English. I’ve made it a goal by the end of the year to go into a store and have an entire conversation in Hebrew. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Overall my experiences teaching English in Israel have been amazing. Yes, most of my expectations were false, but I am pleasantly surprised with the reality. I’ve gained a sense of independence for the first time in my life and I can’t wait to see what the next five months have in store for me!

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