What does it take to relocate successfully from your home country to the United States?
That depends on how we define successful. For today, let's say that success means getting the maximum value on this unique opportunity that you have to live and work in a new country.
A successful expatriate commits him or herself to becoming fluent in English, to gaining real intercultural communication skills and to growing as a person and as a professional in his or her new life.
So what is the difference between an expatriate who is successful, improves their English and thrives in the United States and one who doesn't learn much about their new culture and perhaps continues to speak in their native language all the time?
The difference is the people we choose to spend our time with.
When you move to the U.S. you have a choice:
1. The safe option: Seek out people from your home country as quickly as possible and create a tight circle of friends who share your language and culture. Find an apartment in a neighborhood that has restaurants from your home country, where you can speak your native language and share dinners with your close circle of friends every week. Take no risks while you are abroad. Return home a few years later with very little improvement in your English language skills and little to no knowledge of how to communicate effectively with people in the United States. This option is safe and secure. You aren't likely to ever feel uncomfortable. Sounds great, right? I don't think so!
2. The risky but rewarding option: Deal with that initial feeling of discomfort not by looking for friends from your native country but by leaning into the uncertainty and creating a circle of friends from the United States or from different countries around the world. Find roommates who only speak English in the house (native English speakers or international professionals/students who are dedicated to improving their English). Be selective about who you spend time with. Surround yourself with people who embrace the experience of living in the United States. Become friends with people who also view their time abroad as an opportunity for self-growth and who will help you move closer to your own goals.
This one small choice will determine the quality of your experience:
It's actually more than one choice.
It's a series of choices that you make every day about who to spend time with that shapes your life in the U.S.
Will you accept an invitation to attend a networking event with expats from your home country or will you attend an ESL meetup where you can mix with people from all over the world and improve your English?
Consider each choice carefully because your choices will become your experience!
Which option will you choose?
Take some time today to consider the choices that you have made so far in your life as an expat in the United States. Who are you spending your time with? Could you challenge yourself more? Could you spend more time in circles of people who want to grow through their experience abroad? Could you learn more about the U.S. by spending time with local people? Don't be afraid to be a face a little discomfort. After all, your experience abroad is not about avoiding discomfort. It is about growing and learning. Good luck!