May 24, 2024

Life in Europe: That's why I came back to the United States

Nadia moved to Europe with high expectations, but found that reality did not live up to her expectations.
Courtesy of Nadia Crèvecoeur

Nadia Crèvecoeur, the 26-year-old project manager, saw that her friends had great experiences abroad.

But after living in Europe for eight months, she felt isolated, homesick and misunderstood.

Crèvecoeur, who returned to the United States in 2023, says she feels like herself again.

This is a machine translation of an article from our American colleagues at Business Insider. Automatically translated and verified by a real editor.

This article is based on a conversation with Nadia Crèvecoeur, a 26-year-old project manager from New York, who traveled and lived in several countries, including China, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, and Italy, before returning to France. United States in 2023. The following text has been edited for length and clarity.

I have always had a strong interest in international culture and politics, and considered myself a global citizen. That was the vision I had for my life, and my studies also led me in that direction. In college, I studied International Relations and had the privilege of living abroad – in Geneva (Switzerland) and Brussels (Belgium). I had a great time in these countries. After graduation, I thought about joining an international education program and following in my friends' footsteps.

Many people who study or work in the field of international relations end up living abroad. I have seen many people do this successfully. I thought they had wonderful lives and had life-changing experiences, and I wanted that for myself too.

When you move to a new country, you realize that your mentality is different. There are lots of little things that contribute to cultural change, like food, language, and even morals. At school I thought I wanted to be a nomad and wander around. But after moving to Europe to teach in 2022, I realized I couldn't live abroad unless I lived close to the United States. This isn't just for me.

Read also

I'm an American student living in Spain: These are the things I like most about Europe

Living in a country is not the same as visiting it

I think a lot of people don't realize that studying abroad is a completely different experience from working and living abroad. European culture is not alien to me, but the cultural differences I experienced there were much greater than I initially expected. During the eight months I lived in Europe, I felt a lot of isolation and homesickness. I know every traveler struggles with this, but for me it was very confusing.

Usually I'm a very open person. I love doing something, even if it's just walking and taking photos or exploring a new café – I'm very passionate about having fun. But I realized that I no longer wanted to do the same things that usually turned me on. My personality began to change in ways I didn't know about myself. I became very introverted and stopped interacting with people. I'm usually considered an obsessive person, but it has become very difficult to complete even simple tasks and stick to a schedule. Depression can look different for black women, and I wasn't aware of that.

Read also

I left China to study and work in Germany: this must change in this country

Nadia Crèvecoeur.

Nadia Crèvecoeur.
Courtesy of Nadia Crèvecoeur

I felt alone and misunderstood

I never thought about this thinking it would be easy because I know it's hard. My parents are a living example of the difficulties immigrants face. When I was living in Europe, many factors contributed to making me feel more and more like an outsider – and it wasn't intentional, but it all came together.

And while my ethnicity is talked about a lot in the United States — and it's on all our government forms — I've found that it's not talked about as much in Europe. I feel like a complete person when I'm understood or when I don't have to justify my existence. I had to do that all the time in Europe – people were confused about who I was. My parents are immigrants from Haiti, and I was born in the United States. In the United States, I am not just a woman, I am a black woman. This is an important part of the way I see myself in this world.

Whenever I tried to explain my identity to Europeans, they were very confused. People might say, “Why do you always mention your origins?” Or “Your parents are from Haiti, so you are Haitian.” Then I had to explain to them that I didn't really speak Creole and that I wasn't born in Haiti. They couldn't understand it.

Identities are complex and nuanced, so I don't mean to indict their culture here. All I'm saying is that as someone who grew up with a strong understanding of my own identity, I've been surprised and exhausted when I've found myself in situations where I've always felt like I'm being tricked.

I didn't want anything to do with that.

Nadia Crèvecoeur.

Nadia Crèvecoeur.
Courtesy of Nadia Crèvecoeur

Read also

I moved from Australia to Germany, and no one prepared me for loneliness

I am much happier living in the United States

In 2023 I returned to the United States. I live in New York, where I was born, and have my family nearby. I feel like I'm 100% like myself again and a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders – I feel like I'm in more control of my life. Sometimes, you don't notice how much your environment affects you until you change it.

In the larger travel community, a lot of people say, “Hey, it's easy to pack up and move your whole life,” and I see articles about people having the time of their lives. I always feel overwhelmed by this perspective, but there is so much that no one talks about.

I often talk in my blog about how I felt like a failure because I wasn't able to successfully adapt to the new culture. But when I think about it, I think the fact that I went alone probably made a big difference in my experience. I can imagine that feeling isolated is a little easier if you have a constant reference person outside, for example a partner or friend who accompanies you.

For most of my life, being away from my family didn't bother me. But as I got older, I became more homesick. I think it has a lot to do with the different accomplishments my family has achieved over the past few years. When I was working abroad in 2022, I came home to visit my family. We watched old videos of my siblings and I, christenings, and birthday parties, and it was so cute to see younger versions of ourselves in these 20-year-old videos.

Read also

Expat poll: These 10 most popular countries to work and live in

I realized I wouldn't be in any of my niece's home movies. I wanted my brothers' kids to remember me and not just know who I was. Missing important family moments was very difficult for me. This put everything into perspective for me. My goal living abroad was to be successful, but I didn't see myself as successful as I was in the United States.

This article appeared on March 11, 2024 and was updated on March 12, 2024.

See also  Okos: British defense giant BAE Systems has won a £3.95bn submarine contract