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How Living Abroad Changed Me

Returning from an extended period abroad is a gift and a curse and, in my particular case, leads to a wide range of emotions. Happy to be home, but sad to be away from the steady stream of novel experiences that come from living in a different country. Happy to be back in a place that you’re used to, but sad that nothing has really changed in the time that you’ve been away. Happy to be reunited with friends and family, but sad when you’re reminded of all the things you missed while living abroad It’s a constant back and forth between being ecstatic to be home and itching for your next trip overseas.

If you ask me, it’s impossible to be out of the country for more than 6 weeks and not come back a different person. During my 9 months living in Italy, I learned so much about myself, about different cultures, and about the relationships that I have with others. It’s crazy to expect to move away from everything you know and love and not be changed in the process. I am proud to say that all in all, I came back a better and more mature person. Here’s how living in another country changed me:

I value the relationships that I have with other people more, but, at the same time, I recognize that “out of sight, out of mind” relationships are not the kind I want. When I first announced my move to Italy, all of my friends promised that they would visit. Out of everyone, I can count on one hand (and if we’re being really honest, one finger), how many people actually did. While I understand that airfare is expensive and didn’t honestly expect my friends to visit, I did expect my relationships to be maintained even when distance came into play. For many of my friendships, this just wasn’t the case. Living abroad gave me an opportunity to see which of my relationships were “out of sight, out of mind” and which were genuine. There are people who I used to talk to daily who I barely heard from when I was in Italy. Contrarily, there are people who still made an effort to keep in touch with me even though I was further away and in a different time zone. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to see certain relationships for exactly what they are and I value the sincere friendships that I have so much more than I did when I lived in America full time. Maintaining a friendship across distance and time takes work and I am beyond grateful for the friends that were willing to put in the work necessary to do so.

Living Abroad

Me with my sorority sister and close friend during her visit to Italy


My situation is a little different from other’s who may have lived overseas to study abroad or work. As a basketball wife, I was in Italy with my husband who was working while I was, for the most part, on my own. I am so thankful for the relationships that I formed with other WAGS (wives and girlfriends), both those on my team and on other teams throughout the world. There is nothing like having someone to talk to that understands exactly what you’re going through and can offer advice or even just a new perspective. Even more than that, having someone to run to the store with, explore the city with while your significant other is out of town, or even just watch the games with goes a long way. Having a network of women to go to with questions and concerns, or just to vent to is of the utmost importance in this lifestyle. Being abroad gave me the opportunity to build relationships with other overseas basketball wives, some of which I think will last a lifetime.

Although my husband had practice, games, and team meetings while we were abroad, after living overseas, I value my relationship with him more than I ever thought possible. It really was, for the most part, just the two of us and we established an “us against the world” mentality. As newlyweds, getting basically 9 months of uninterrupted honeymoon time together allowed us to get to know each other on a totally different level, talk about our dreams and goals, and experience new things together. Our relationship and my mentality about what it truly means to be life partners changed for the better because of our time as newlyweds in Italy.

Duomo Milan, Italy

My husband and me on one of our many day trips to Milan


I know myself a lot better than I did a year ago and am way more comfortable being by myself.

Not being surrounded by friends and family really allowed me to establish my independence. While I appreciate all of my relationships, especially the one that I have with my husband, I also know now that I am OK on my own. I’m not afraid to go out and explore new things alone and I know how to occupy and entertain myself without any help from other people.

I value every moment that I get to spend with my family.

There is no feeling worst than calling home to find out that your whole family has gone out for a fun-filled night of bowling and dinner while you’re alone in an apartment in an entirely different country. Living abroad really takes feeling left out to a whole different level. I missed holidays, birthdays, and countless family dinners while I was away. While I am so glad that my husband and I had the opportunity to celebrate holidays alone and spend more time just the two of us, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard for me to be away from my family. I value every moment that I get to spend with my family after spending 9 months living so far away from them. Never again will I skip a family outing or an opportunity to hang out with my niece and nephew. My whole mindset about family is different now and I thoroughly enjoy every day we spend together.

I appreciate just being at home, but, at the same time, having to deal with the monotony of being home for extended periods of time scares me.

Towards the end of my time abroad, I missed everything about our home in Atlanta. I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my furniture, my closet space, my cable, and, most of all, my dog, Nas. Now that I’m back home, I feel much more content just being in the house than I did before. I used to be one of those people who liked to be out and about all day, and now I find pleasure in just hanging out at home watching American television while Nas naps at my feet.

Puggle

Because… How could you not miss this face?!


At the same time, the thought of having to spend an extended amount of time in Atlanta kind of scares me. I’ve gotten so used to being on the move and experiencing new things that I suddenly feel like there’s nothing worthwhile to see and do at home. I’m always planning my next trip and find myself getting excited for our departure from America back to Europe. When this happens, I remind myself of just how much I wanted to be home a few months ago, and the feeling quickly passes, but my cravings for travel, different cultures, and new experiences come far more often than they did before I lived abroad.

I see the worth in the simple things that Americans usually take for granted.

We live in the most convenient country in the world and I didn’t even realize it until I lived in another country. I appreciate things about America that I took for granted before. Having a dryer that actually works, having air conditioning, and having a refrigerator that is bigger than a small cabinet are just a few of the things that I value about living in America now. On top of that, I will never again take for granted having a place like Target that literally has everything under the sun or a grocery store that doesn’t just randomly run out of things that I consider trivial.

I also have a newfound appreciation for the English language. Hearing English spoken, being able to listen to other people’s conversations and actually understand them, being able to hold conversations without Google Translate, and being able to ask questions and find items I need with ease are just a few of the things that I value about not having to deal with a language barrier. I can appreciate a random conversation with a total stranger in a way that I never thought possible.

All in all, I’m happy to be home. I’m happy to be reunited with my hair stylist, my family and friends, my Puggle, Target, and the English language. Living abroad taught me so much about relationships and true friends, about my marriage, and about myself, and I don’t take things for granted the way that I once did. As the summer flies by, I’m eager to find out where I will be living next year and am excited to see how I will continue to grow and change while living abroad. I am determined to take advantage of the time that we have left at home, but I’m also itching for our next adventure.

Cantu, Italy

Picturesque view of the Cantu square near our old apartment


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