Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Relocating to the US as an Expatriate? Terrified?

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, May 21, 2012 @ 09:02 PM

relocating to US expatriateAre you terrified about relocating to the US as an expatriate? How will you communicate in English? How will you meet new people and how will you succeed in your new workplace? There are probably many questions like these swirling around in your mind as you pack up your life in your home country and prepare for your assignment in the US. Whether you are relocating abroad by yourself or with your family, it can be a really scary experience! But it can also be a unique and potentially transformative experience! As an expatriate in the US, you have a choice. You can choose to find a community of other international professionals from your country and hide away with them, speak your native language and never really learn anything about the US or about yourself. Or, you can stretch your boundaries, challenge yourself and create a messy but satisyfing life abroad that allows you to grow in ways that you could never grow in your home country. So which path will you choose? If you choose the messy and "inconvenient" path of growth and challenge, you will need to take some risks! That is where today's post can help you. How can you take more risks in your life abroad? Try "going to zero"!



A mental exercise for expats!


Jonathan Fields (2011) wrote a thought-provoking book called "Uncertainty:Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance." In his book, he talked about how entrepreneurs and creative types can empower themselves to take more risks by imagining the worst case scenario. As en expat, it is up to you to "create" your new life abroad. So how can this strategy help you?relocating expats to US Let's imagine that you have chosen to challenge yourself and you have set a goal to become fluent in English in a year. You don't have any time to waste. You know that the only way to make this happen is to arrange a living situation where you are hearing and speaking in English on a daily basis. For that reason, you have decided to look for an apartment with native English speaking roommates. But since your English is not very strong, you are afraid of feeling isolated and lonely. Will you sit through long dinners confused and embarrassed while your roommates laugh and joke in English? To push yourself to actually follow your plan of moving into a house with native English speakers, you must imagine the worst case scenario. Keep reading to find out how you can do that.



Follow these steps to "Go to Zero"


Relocating expats Boston

  • In your mind, imagine the worst possible scenario that could result if you chose to move into a house of native English speakers. Imagine that you are sitting at the dinner table and you feel foolish, sad and loney because you can't speak with anyone. What would you do?


  • Write down the specific steps that you could take to alleviate that feeling of loneliness. Would you enroll in English conversation lessons or start listening to the radio in English at least two hours each day? Would you ask your roommates to slow down and teach you a few of the new phrases that you are hearing? Who would be there for you? Who would support you? Who would love you unconditionally regardless of your ability to communicate in English? I bet you can think of a few people!


  • Now imagine that you have taken some of those steps and you are continuing to sit down for "English only" dinners with your roommates but this time things are different. You are catching on. You aren't able to understand every word or phrase but you can understand some of them. A few months later, you can jump into the conversation and within six months, you are well on your way to your goal of fluency!



Can you make it work for you?


That is what "going to zero" is all about. You imagine yourself hitting bottom. You find the worst possible situation that you could encounter if you pursued this risk and then you write down the steps that you could take to get out of that situation. Did you find out that there would indeed be ways for you to get out of "zero"?  Most people find that they will have the resources and the ability to get out of that place. By realizing that, you have no reason not to take the risk! So, is becoming fluent in English a goal that is worth striving for while you are an expat in the US? If so, grab a pen and a piece of paper and go to zero!


Did you find this article helpful? If so, please stay in touch! Click on the button below to receive an email when we publish new blog posts to help you adjust to life in the US and improve your English!


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photo credits:Arbron, Leo Reynolds,

Topics: Expatriate Support

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