5 things I wish I had known before I moved halfway across the world by myself
Six months after I turned 18, I moved halfway across the world.
I had promised my parents it was only going to be for one semester. But as of last month, it's been 11 years - so, I'm sorry, mom and dad.
Looking back on it, the reasoning behind my move meant that I had probably seen far too many romantic comedies growing up - but I don't regret a second of the move.
However, that doesn't mean that it was an easy thing to do - or that I hadn't had my doubts about doing it at all.
Here are the five biggest things I wish I had known before moving halfway across the world
It's really, really hard to pack up your life (but try to pack light)
I did not pack light. I wish I had. Somehow, for one semester, I ended up with two massive suitcases that each weighed half my body weight and two carryons that always seemed to be slipping/falling.
And somehow the amount of stuff just. kept. multiplying. So what I'm trying to say is please don't make the same mistake.
If you're planning on heading home within a few years, put whatever items you can't part with in storage - or even with someone you would trust to take care of them, if they have the room.
And be really, really picky about what you do bring: like, chances are your new home has furniture and kitchenware - or there's somewhere very near where you can nab a fresh set.
Life will move on at home, whether you want it to or not
Okay, it's not like I was expecting for everyone to be frozen in some kind of bubble until I came back home - but that doesn't mean I was entirely ready to see lives continuing as normal, either.
The stream of social media updates showing friends at parties together stung at first; so did missing out on things like Christmases and birthdays.
And, at least from my experience, some relationships ended up falling apart because of the distance; others actually grew stronger. And that's okay (although it didn't feel like it at the time).
It sounds cheesy as anything, but it's all about finding that balance of not focusing too much on what's going on back home, but still finding a way to keep in touch with your nearest and dearest.
Getting visas and residency is a stressful process
Not to mention really, really confusing.
While I'm sure you've done your research on what kind of visa you need to get to the country of your choosing, it's a good idea to also look at what kind of visa you would need to stay there - whether it be for a short term or for years to come.
It doesn't mean you have to, it just means you're extra prepared if you end up wanting to - and the process may not as frustrating in the long-run*.
A lot of countries have working holiday style visas, which typically run for around 12 months - but you can find the general visa requirements and processing times on the country's immigration site.
(* it will probably still be pretty frustrating, I'm not going to lie to you. But it will be worth it.)
Homesickness will get you when you least expect it
And it's totally okay to question why you decided to do this.
There were days where things were 100 per cent all good and just generally fantastic; it felt like I had my whole 'living-so-far-away-from-home' situation perfectly figured out.
And there have been days where I wanted nothing more than to fly back home for a home cooked meal and the chance to cuddle up with my dog (if that was logistically possible and not at all odd).
Despite all of the emotional ups and downs, I'm happy I stuck with it - and figured out a way to have a little piece of home around to helps stave off the homesickness.
Home can (and probably will) feel foreign too
The longest period of time I went without flying back to Canada was nearly three years. Not for lack of wanting to, just because it's the way that things worked out.
And when I began to walk around downtown again, everything just seemed....off. I realised that many of my favourite stores and restaurants had disappeared; that places where I had made many of my most cherished memories had long been shut down.
I felt like a tourist in the city that I grew up in. Three years on, the feeling hasn't quite gone away - and, at this point, I don't think it will.
Looking back now, it seems like it would have been inevitable - but I wish that I had at least braced myself for it a little better.