Friday, October 23, 2015

Tips for Helping a Friend Living Abroad

I've been thinking about this a lot recently.  How can you be a good friend/family member to someone living abroad?  We've been so lucky because our friends and family have been so supportive and just all-around awesome since we've gotten here.  They have definitely kept us sane throughout this whole experience.  These are some of the things that they've done that have definitely made a huge difference.

1. Be there.  I don't mean physically there, I just mean "there."  For some people, that's easier than others but we're lucky to live in the 21st century where there are tons of ways to "be there."  My parents and I video chat almost every Sunday night.  In the first few months (and even now), I lived for these video chats.  One of my best friends always gchats me as she's working, while another sends me emails every so often.  Mike and I also are in a few group chats on Facebook or gchat that help us stay connected.  Regardless of how you do it, just being there is number one.

2. Be supportive. There are days (okay weeks) where I am just not feeling this experience. It's definitely not all sunshine and rainbows. On days weeks like this, all I really need is someone to just sympathize with me and nod their head as I complain about some trivial thing that really isn't that bad.

3. Don't be too supportive. Some days I need people to just nod and sympathize with me, but I could see how it could go too far.  For me, Turkey is like my sibling.  Growing up, my siblings drove me nuts (love you guys!) and all I want to do is complain to my friends about them.   The minute that my friends started complaining about them, though, was the minute in that conversation I would get defensive.  I could complain all I wanted about my siblings, but I was the only one who was allowed to do that.  I feel the same way about Turkey.  I complain about it a lot, but it has found a special place in my heart. The few times my friends have tried to complain about Turkey with me, I always find myself getting a little defensive.  It's better if people just say things like "Yeah, that's gotta be tough"  or "Wow! That's so different from home!"

4. Send little tastes of home.  Living away from home is hard, even if you are enjoying it.  There are so many things that are different about your new home, even if it's in the United States.  You might not be able to find the food brands you're used to, the weather may be different or those special things that make you love home so much might be missing.  One of the most creative ways our friends have shown support is when we received our It's Fall, Y'all package from Matt, Katy and Beau.  We don't really get Fall here, so they sent us all sorts of fall related things.

5. Ask Questions about Life Abroad. I enjoy telling people about my experience, hence the reason for this blog. Even if your friend/family member doesn't have a blog, that doesn't necessarily mean they don't like talking about their experience.  One of my best friends always has a ton of questions when we video chat, which I love.  It makes me think about our experience and, lots of times, it makes me think about things that I usually take for granted.

Looking back at this list, it doesn't have to be a friend living abroad.  They could be in a new city or state. Sometimes that's as different as a new country! I'm sure that by the time we leave Turkey, we'll have more tips and tricks from our wonderful friends, but these are definitely some of the gestures that our friends and family have done that have made being far away a little bit easier.

And really, when you live in a place like this, how can you complain too much?