This piece for Enchanted Serendipity’s Expat Series was written by Marijana from Lady Of Awesome Travel blog.
I was born and raised in Croatia, where I spent 18 years in my small, 5000 people hometown and the next 6 in its capital, Zagreb. I actually never thought I’d become an expat and live anywhere other than Croatia.
I never said, “I’m leaving everything behind and starting fresh somewhere else”.
Then, in 2014, I went to Poland for a semester abroad – I wanted the experience of living somewhere else, at least for a short time. I chose the start and end date and because this was the last semester of my master studies, I had no idea which direction will my life take afterwards.
During my time in Poland, my then-boyfriend (who is now my fiancé!) got an offer to take a six month internship in Dublin, Ireland, and after a bit of weighing the pros and cons, he decided to go for it, and take me with him. This happened in November 2014, a few months after I returned from Poland.
Expats In Dublin, Ireland
So moving to Ireland happened unplanned, and by no means did we plan to stay longer than those six months. During this time, I found some casual jobs in order to earn some extra money and fill in my days. I was also writing my master’s thesis during this period.
We were supposed to return to Croatia in May 2015, but, well…we didn’t. We fell in love with Dublin.
We felt like home. We loved what we’ve done to our rented apartment and we loved returning to it after a long day. We loved the people and the buzz that Dublin has, so we decided to stay a bit longer.
I could probably talk forever about what living in Dublin has done to me.
The Highlights Of Being An Expat
My English speaking skills have gone through the roof. By living in Poland and then in Ireland, I found parts of my identity tied to my Croatian roots I never knew existed, and I found passion and motivation for new things in my life that I think I never otherwise would have. I have met some incredible people.
Now, you might think that the “living abroad” stories only come as happy stories, stories of growth, new cultures and new, amazing people that happen when you change your environment (sometimes even drastically). But it sometimes gets painful and dark. Sometimes, all you want to do is hug your parents and be beside the ones you love, especially if they are going through something difficult in their lives.
And you can’t do that, because there is a job, or a financial situation, or any other commitment stopping you from jumping on your next plane to be with them. And if you ever find yourself in that situation, take a deep breath and remember that all expats go through such difficult times, no exceptions! It is so much easier going through these things with a friend, a partner or simply with another expat, going through something similar themselves. So find your support to ease your struggles, because it will be so worth it.
Why am I saying this? Because becoming an expat is one of the best experiences that have happened to me. It comes with a price of being away from your long-established safety back home, but it has brought me so many amazing things. By living abroad, I discovered a new path I want to take in my career, I found my long-lost passion for writing, and I learned how to pursue my dreams and my ultimate life goals.
And I know you might say that this might have happened back home, too, and I agree – but being thrown in a crowd that speaks a different language, eats different food, behaves so down-to-earth and so deeply accepts everyone who gives it a try, made me a more determined person than I ever thought I would have become.
What Ireland Has Taught Me
I believe every expat out there will agree with me when I say that living abroad is an eye-opener. For me, it was a slight bit of a culture shock, but a positive one. Being from a country that is still struggling with the economic crisis that started 8 years ago, I got used to the environment intertwined with negativity and constant worries, where people don’t usually take giant leaps of faith, start their businesses out of nowhere or leave their comfort zone unless it’s unavoidable.
So moving to a place where people are this easy-going, open and welcoming, but still only minding their own problems, made me see the world with different eyes. I never thought these things happened outside of happy-ending novels, but they do. Living in Dublin made me want to learn and be a person people want to learn from.
It made me want to travel more and see more. And if I had I chance to do it all over, I would still do everything just the same.
And right now? I still live in Dublin, I love it as if I have been here since forever, and I have no idea what will my next step be. I would love to go back to Croatia at some point, bringing all this new way of seeing things with me, but I’ll wait a bit to see what else life has prepared for me first!
If you enjoyed this, you’ll want to check out Emilia’s expat story about her time in Chile.