This was the question I got asked during my first visit back home after having moved abroad a couple of months before. It seemed to me such a baffling question, and I didn’t even know how to respond. The person asking was obviously waiting for a yes or no answer, as we just happened to run into each other on the street, and we weren’t really that close, so it wasn’t the case for a lengthy, elaborative discussion. In the few seconds before responding with a very convincing “umm, I guess” the question broke down into many other questions in my mind: was it worth it with regards to what? Study opportunities, life, people, money, career perspectives, or what? After how much time spent abroad are you really in a position to answer this question? And anyway, can you respond to this question at all? I mean is this a yes or no question at all?
Why Moving Abroad?
Later on, after years spent abroad I got to the conclusion that this was definitely not a yes or no question. And this is because when you decide to leave your home country, you have a very strong reason to do so, but that reason, may it be however strong, doesn’t make the other parts of your life non-existent. For example if you move abroad because of a job, better material perspectives, or you leave to study, which was my case, you go after something that is really important to you, but most of the time this means accepting some kind of loss somewhere else.
The very first step of moving, the decision itself is a compromise you make with yourself. For me at that time it was important to study at a certain university, which has been my dream. But I had all my family and friends back home. I was going to go alone, and I decided on doing so even though my people, my relationships were always really important to me. Which is what eventually brought me back home, but then I had to sit down with myself and decide whether I was capable and/or willing to make this compromise. And I decided to go.
Why Not Moving Abroad?
So my reason to leave was education. And in that field moving was definitely worth it! I got all I imagined I would, and even more. If this had been the only aspect of life, then everything would have been so simple! But life doesn’t work that way. I felt lonely pretty often, even though I was surrounded by new people, and the big city had a lot to offer. But all my family and friends were back home, and I felt a bit lost, or disconnected in general. A couple of times I seriously considered moving back home, but each time I decided to stay, as I had the feeling that I still had some things to do there, some unfinished business if you like.
Was it all worth it? Well it certainly was in the meaning that I got to do what I felt I had to do, but otherwise it was a challenge day by day. I’m not saying I was thinking about this each day. As a matter a fact I rarely thought about all these. I just did my job and went on with life. Until a certain point.
Why Moving Back Home?
That was the point when I realized I was going to come back home. It wasn’t so much thinking, but rather a feeling: the feeling that I had completed my mission, so to say, I was finished with everything I moved for in the first place. I felt that a phase of my life has come to its end. I didn’t have a list about all the things I wanted to do before moving back home, it was just my gut feeling telling me that I did everything I had to and it was time for moving back.
So, Was Moving Abroad Worth It?
Now I can answer the question easily: yes it was. why? Precisely because I have this sense of completion. I often tell people that I feel I haven’t stayed one day longer, neither less than I had to. Now that I am back, I know that it was just a phase – even though it was almost a decade – so basically it was just like anything else you do in life: you do it because you have to, then you move forward. It had its ups and downs but all in all I say it was worth it. But I can only say this because I have the exact terms in which I can think about this question. And I think that you can only be in possession of these terms after the experience is complete. There, in the middle of it, and especially at the beginning everything was so blurry, I didn’t know where my journey will lead me, I just kind of went with it. But having reached its end and having taken another important decision: to move back, has equipped me with the necessary knowledge about my reasons, my needs, and my motivations.
I guess what I want to say is that with becoming an expat you have all the questions the others have about you as well, and only with patience and time can you begin to form the answers. And it’s always easier to share this experience with someone who has done the same, than with someone who hasn’t. Leaving your home raises so many questions – about your own personality, and your priorities, and no matter how much you’d like to answer them right away, the wisest – and let’s face it, the only – thing to do is go on with your life, give yourself time, and don’t rush into giving answers. Neither for anybody else, nor for yourself.