Elisabeth’s experience from Sweden to Brighton
Welcome to my new series ‘The Living Abroad Questionnaire’ where I interview 5 women born in 5 different countries about their experiences of living abroad for extended periods of time! Every day of this week you will get a new insight into what its like to move to a new country and how it can impact your life for the better!
Country of birth: Sweden
Countries you’ve lived in: Sweden, England (Brighton)
Why did you move abroad?
The first time I moved to England was for my exchange semester at university in the fall of 2016. I went to Brighton to study English, Culture and Business at University of Sussex from early October to mid-December, which was part of my ordinary program in Business Administration at Gothenburg School of Business, Economics and Law. The second time I moved to Brighton was from early June to late August 2018. This time I moved to work as an activity leader for Education First Language Travel over the summer, and my boyfriend at the time lived in Brighton so that was also a major motive for my move.
What was the process of moving to a new country?
When I moved to England I didn’t need to apply for a Visa or anything. I just needed to make sure my European Health Insurance card was valid and that I brought it with me, and I also got an additional insurance for my belongings and for the place I lived in. When I moved to work in England there were also some papers I needed to sign and some documents from Sweden I needed to send over since I was going to be working with kids. But the process was very easy to handle and they provided me with a lot of information on what documents I needed to bring.
The first time I moved to Brighton, my friends and I rented an apartment through Airbnb. It was a long process to find a good place and in the end, it was quite expensive for us to live there. But since we were only staying in Brighton for 2,5 months there wasn’t much other services to use to find a place to stay in (or at least we didn’t know of any other ways to find accommodation for such a short amount of time). Brighton is an expensive city in terms of rent so if you plan on moving there I don’t recommend using Airbnb but an actual letting agency and be prepared that you might have to flat-share. The second time I moved to Brighton the company I worked for, EF, arranged accommodation for me and deducted a certain amount in rent each week. This was so helpful and saved me a lot of time and money.
Regarding bringing your belongings I just need to start off by emphasizing this, I know it sucks but you will not be able to bring everything. Both times I moved abroad there were so many things I wanted to take with me but in the end, I only had one suitcase to fit it all in. Moving between countries for just a few months is hard, especially when you fly, since you can’t bring more stuff than you can carry and there is no use in shipping additional stuff because you aren’t staying for very long. Also bear in mind that you will have so many more things when you go back home (if you are a shopaholic like me and have a weak spot for Primark) so make sure you take that into consideration. I always book one suitcase on my way out and two on the way home to fit all the new stuff I know I will have acquired after a few months abroad. Bring the stuff you can’t live without, clothes that match in more ways than one and things that aren’t possible to buy in your new home (I brought lots of Swedish candy, we just do it better, I’m sorry). If you need to save room go over your packing and ask yourself “Do I really need this? Will I actually use this?”. A lot of times I have brought things only to bring them back unused again, which is super unnecessary when you have limited space. You can also throw out things that you know you can buy once you get there. Most countries have toothpaste, I promise.
Was there an aspect of living abroad that was different from what you expected?
Definitely. It really isn’t like what you see in the movies, or like the picture you paint in your head, where everything is super fun and amazing all the time. But this is both positive and negative. In a lot of ways it was much less spectacular than I first had thought to move abroad. Sure, it’s a new place and in the beginning it’s very exciting and you think it will all be different there, but after a while it kind of felt like any other city and I was still the same person just in a new place. This however, is also the positive part because this enables you to feel like you have a real life in this place, not just visiting for a week on vacation. You learn the ins and outs of the city, how to avoid the tourist traps and instead find the local favorites, you get into your routine and actually feel like this is your home. It surprised me how fast I got used to living in a new place and even if I missed my family back home it felt more manageable than I first had thought it would. There are parts you will like about living in your new place and there are parts you won’t like. Whenever I go to Brighton now I feel like part of me will always view it as home because I’ve spent a lot of time there and I have my favorite restaurants, pubs and walks. By now I have lived in so many places both in Sweden and abroad that when I say the word “home” to my parents they never know which place I’m referring to. And I think that is pretty cool. So even if living abroad wasn’t exactly like I had imagined it would be, it was in many ways a lot better.
How has living abroad changed your perception of life?
I think it has made me more resilient to changes and made me realize that I can handle more than I used to think I could, and that these new things that I face make me stronger and better. I also believe it has given me deeper understanding of other people, cultures and lifestyles that I didn’t know much about before. All in all, I feel like I have learnt a lot of things about myself and about the world from living abroad and it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Any tips for someone moving abroad for the first time?
The most important advice I have is to not get too attached to your friends and family at home or the ones who have travelled with you, but go out and meet new people in your new home. The best part of living abroad is making new friends and learn more about and experience more things in the country you have moved to. Visit some local attractions, try the local cuisine and befriend the people you work/study with. Of course you can call your family and friends at home every now and then but speaking on the phone for several hours every day will only make you miss them more and keep you from fully living your life in your new city. Also, you have to accept that adapting to a new place takes time and it might feel scary and even like the wrong choice in the beginning. But trust me it gets better after a while, this is just stress and nervousness talking, and we have all felt like this. Once you get used to your new place you will feel a lot better.
Lastly, I just want to tell everyone who are thinking about moving abroad, DO IT!! You will never ever regret it. It’s a truly amazing experience and you will develop so much by doing this. Be brave, have fun and prepare to never feel truly at home anywhere ever again because your heart will always be in more places than one.
Thanks Elisabeth! Stay tuned for another interview tomorrow!