Moving Abroad: A Challenging yet Rewarding Endeavor

Published on 29 October 2023

Moving Abroad: A Challenging yet Rewarding Endeavor

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Undeniably, moving abroad can be an exhilarating grand adventure, packed with its fair share of surprising turns and exquisite memories. As a person who has transient roots in Denmark, China, and now the United Kingdom, I feel fortunate to take you on a rollicking journey as I share my experiences related to this whirlwind of cultural transitions.

It was when I was a young lad of 14, back in 2015, that my life took a thrilling turn. To provide a bit of context, my father was, and still is, employed with the iconic toy manufacturer, LEGO. Back in the day, the company was opening a factory in Jiaxing, an unassuming city not far from Shanghai, China. Being amongst the chosen ones, my father moved east, not alone, but with the family in tow. This marked the beginning of our extended sojourn in the bustling megacity of Shanghai.

With this shift, the world as I knew it transformed drastically. Imagine swapping the zen vibes of Denmark with the frenetic pace of Shanghai, swapping the comfortable regulars of my small hometown for the unfamiliar alleys of a giant Chinese metropolis. It was a bit intimidating to say the least, but the thought of moving to such an exciting new place filled my 13-year-old heart with a blend of curiosity and thrill. You see, the news of our adventure broke the year prior to moving.

Before we took this gigantic leap, LEGO arranged what they refer to as a ‘Go, Look, See’ visit to Shanghai. This initial visit opened a window for us into the city that would become our home, allowing us to acclimate to the new setting. The flight itself was quite the novelty, especially for someone like me, who had barely flown before. The transition was not just about the change in physical geography, but also a complete upheaval in our lifestyle.

Luxurious accommodations, not something ordinary folks like my family were used to, were provided during our stay. However, don’t be mistaken thinking this is how I lived from there on out. These extravagances were the company’s generous perks rather than our standard fare. Notwithstanding the grandeur, this change fostered a sense of excitement and adventure, making the transition less daunting and more inviting.

A crucial part of this transition was my schooling. At the British International School in Shanghai, I got a chance to participate in a distinct pedagogical experience somewhere between my Danish roots and British formalism. It was elite, engaged, and challenging. Moreover, the friends I made, the nights I spent out in the warmth of Shanghai, and the laughters I shared continue to be sweet memories etched deep in my mind.

But there was also less fun times. One time, my mundane metro journey back home from downtown Shanghai, suddenly transformed into a dramatic tale of inadvertent adventure. I boarded the metro, with confidence that my geographic abilities would safely lead me from the terminal station to my home. I quickly realised this to be a gross overestimation of my abilities.

A young, Danish native, by himself, adrift in one of the world’s most populous cities, not armed with the local tongue, and a cell phone devoid of any credit—I was really up a creek without a paddle. I wandered aimlessly along the wide roads and neon-lit shopping streets. It felt like being in a real-life enactment of a grand, eerie mystery novel.

I spent what felt like an eternity wandering before I eventually found my way back home, either summoning a local taxi or stumbling upon my bearings, I truly can’t remember. It was a terrifying and puzzling experience, and while it induced my adrenaline to skyrocket, it also tied-in an invaluable lesson about the importance of familiarising oneself with the local geography, especially when you are in a new, sprawling city like Shanghai.

After two incredible years in China, my family and I moved back to Denmark in 2017. Although relocating back to the familiar grounds did sound reassuring in the moment, undoubtedly, a part of me was left behind in Shanghai. The dynamic city life, the cultural extravaganza, and the freedom that Shanghai awarded were missed sorely as we readjusted to Danish life.

However, the call to venture out was too overpowering to ignore and in 2019, I found myself moving to Brighton in the United Kingdom. The decision, while it seemed intimidating at first, somehow felt right. Having already acclimated myself to living abroad in Shanghai, perhaps the idea of moving to a new country was not as daunting.

Brighton, however, was not where I was meant to stay. And with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I made my way back home, and waited, and plotted a new path forward.

At the grand age 20, and slightly wiser and more mature, the realisation that I wanted to experience the throbbing heart of the United Kingdom set in, and I found my way to London. And here I am today, happily carving out a slice of my life in the glorious city of London.

Reflecting on this roller-coaster journey, I strongly advocate for the transformative power of living abroad. The challenges, surprises, and rewards it bestows are immeasurable. It broadens your perspective, molds you into a more adaptable soul, and makes you appreciate your roots more than ever.

There are so many that will never have the opportunity to leave home, either for a better life or for adventure.

So should you find yourself contemplating a shift away from the familiar, and you have the opportunity, I urge you to take that leap of faith. You might stumble or even struggle a bit at first, but the personal growth and the life-enriching experiences you’ll gain will definitely make it worth your while. So go forth, take that leap into the unknown. After all, life is a grand adventure or nothing.

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