My Experience with Living Abroad | 1 Year Anniversary

March 5, 2020 in - 5 min read

It’s the 25th of February 2019, I’m at the King Shaka International Airport with my family with my whole life packed into two suitcases which my mother had spent the last 2 weeks unpacking and packing every 3/4 days – I’m guessing it was her way of trying to accept that I will be away for a long time. As we wait for the gate for my flight to open, we goofed around and made silly jokes about random stuff as we always do, but no one was actually talking about the fact that for the first time ever, I was about to board a plane alone and not only cross the boarders of my province for the first time but also cross the boarders of my country and the continent too. 

It’s time to say our goodbyes, we are all a bit awkward about it because we have never been away from each other for longer than a week, how is this supposed to go? Are we supposed to cry? Hug longer? Profess our feelings? Or act like this is normal and we are totally going to see each other next week? We went for the latter. The day I had been waiting for, for almost 2 months, had finally arrived, I was not nervous, I did not shed a tear, I was ready – ready to start a new journey alone in the United States of America.

I remember the many times during the course of my degree when I would have meltdowns yet still push myself to work hard because I had a reward for myself in mind – take a gap year to travel and better my mental health. I still applaud myself for doing exactly that. On the 26th of February 2020, I celebrated surviving living abroad and by ‘celebrate’ I mean ‘lay down on my bed, staring at the ceiling with my hands on my chest and a huge grin on my face’. I thought about all the amazing experiences I have had, all the bold moves I have made, all the great friends I met, all the discoveries and lessons I learnt the hard way and the fun way, I thought about all the little adventures I went on and all the people I inspired. My heart and soul were at peace.

Moving abroad is surely not all sunshine and rainbows as it may seem on the gram, you just learn to see good in every good and bad experience that you have. It changes you, changes the way you think, the way you act and the way you speak. It’s all so overwhelming but you learn to accept the drastic change. The things you see make you think differently, the environment you are in makes you act differently and the people you are surrounded with make you speak differently; it all happens to quick and so naturally, you don’t even notice it until someone from back home mentions it.

Moving abroad is surely not all sunshine and rainbows as it may seem on the gram, you just learn to see good in every good and bad experience that you have.

Without a doubt culture shock has smacked me on the face when I didn’t even see it coming.  You think you know a country so well, until you actually move there. Now that I live in the US, I have seen the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of how the country functions, I have learnt how to fill up my own gas which is something we don’t do in South Africa and I have gotten used to eating food I don’t quite enjoy. My job has given me the opportunity to live a ‘wealthy’ life, travel the US, understand the American culture and meet people from all over the world.

The biggest lesson I have learnt from living abroad is that life really goes on. Just as I am living my life, everybody else around me is living theirs and we really don’t even owe each other any explanations. My friends and family members are getting engaged, married, having children, moving into their own apartments and sometimes I found out on social media just like everyone else and honestly that’s more or less how it’s supposed to be. It’s almost impossible to keep each other updated about every single thing that happens in our lives because there’s just too much happening. I sometimes find myself mentioning something to my family or friends and their response half the time is like, “Wait, since when did you have…” or “When did you even get that/go there?” because I simply forget to keep them posted, we’re at the age where everything is happening all at once. Good luck with lifting your head up to the surface to grasp some air.

Related | Planning Your First Solo Trip

I have learnt to be alone, learnt to be more understanding of people’s opinions and where they are rooted from and I have learnt to not fear anything. Whatever I set my mind to, I do it. With or without support, I move. I have built higher standards for myself, I do not settle. Living abroad has really reintroduced me to myself and I am absolutely obsessed with the person I have become and the person I am becoming. 

Let me leave you with just this one thing – if you ever get an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, do not think twice, jump for it. We grow through experiences and we learn through experimenting. Living abroad is probably one of the most rewarding adventure you could ever have, all the good and the bad have something to show you about the world and/or about yourself. Take the leap!

If you ever get an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, do not think twice, jump for it.

That’s it for now, iyophind’ ihlangane


  • […] RELATED | My Experience with Living Abroad – 1 Year Anniversary […]

  • Jess March 16, 2020 at

    Happy 1 year anniversary 🙂

  • questionsfromateenager March 8, 2020 at

    First of all, thank you for sharing this post! It was so interesting to read this, as I also lived abroad last year.

    “It’s almost impossible to keep each other updated about every single thing that happens in our lives because there’s just too much happening.” – this is SO TRUE! I think at first, I definitely struggled with this because I sometimes felt like I was missing out on life at home with my friends (and some of them felt the same, just vice versa). As time went on, we all accepted that you cannot share every single second of your life with each other, otherwise you would probably never leave your flat haha (& explore the new country you’re living in!).

    I agree with you that living abroad is not only a massive change you have to get used to but also an amazing experience that will most definitely push you out of your comfort zone a lot and force you to learn & grow as a human being. It definitely expands your horizon, you get to know new people, a new culture… it’s amazingly educating and also boosts your independence! Again, great post! xx

  • kaylin speaks March 7, 2020 at


  • Amaefuleprecious March 6, 2020 at

    Your posts always come off as reassuring. This particular post met me well, if I’m to say, at the moment I needed to read it. Not that I’m travelling abroad or moving anywhere out of Nigeria in the moment, but I’m having kind of a systematic break before my youth service year here in Nigeria. Finished school clearance and barely moved back home few days ago, adjusting has been difficult, not to talk of how much I miss my friends and the life I have molded in four year while out of town. Home feels strange, like I cant fit into the space I’ve returned to. But I’m also trying my best to utilize this gap year before service. I have a lot of crazy ideas in my head I want to manifest, and I can’t wait to just take the LEAP like you said. Cause, most times, we might not know what we might be getting ourselves into while on a leap, and I’m excited as much as it terrifies me for what I’m going to do with this year.

  • Philisiwe Gumede March 6, 2020 at

    Wonderful piece Sis😭😍
    You work nd words always inspire me so much and I learn from it ALWAYS

  • Jess Rigg March 6, 2020 at

    This is such an interesting post! I’m living abroad this year on a gap year and I agree with everything you say – such an amazing experience!

  • Passport Overused March 5, 2020 at

    Great post 😁

  • Kymmiee Lately March 5, 2020 at

    A Beautiful piece as always Sis!! Keep letting us live vicariously through you!

    • Mbalenhle March 5, 2020 at

      Awww sis 🥰 Thank you so much for stopping by, l really appreciate this ❤️

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    About Me

    About Me

    Hi and welcome! My name is Mbalenhle K but everyone calls me Mbali for short (say: mm-bah-lee). I am a freelance copywriter who loves all things art, experiences and aesthetics (big time Pinterest gworl 🧚🏽)! I am the founder of Budding Regardless where I talk about mindfulness, self-development and self-nurturing for creatives. Read More

    Mbalenhle K.

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