Mindfulness Abroad

womanYou may have noticed that I’ve written a fair number of blog posts on the subject of mindfulness so far.

And if you’re an expat or international student following this blog, you may be wondering what mindfulness has to do with your experience of living abroad.

Good question!

While the practice of mindfulness can be helpful for almost anyone, those of us living outside our comfort zone for a period of time may find it especially helpful for a number of reasons. We’ll talk about just 3 of these reasons today. Read More


What Are You Waiting For?

rosesAre you waiting for something, thinking that when you reach that next step, then — then! — you can finally start living?

Or relax?

Or allow yourself to be happy?

Many of us struggle to live in the present moment. We spend a lot of time thinking about either the past (ruminating about things that happened or didn’t happen) or the future (worrying or anticipating things that may or may not happen). But relatively rarely are we really living our lives in the present moment, the here and now.

And one of the many things that can get in the way of our really living in the present is our goals.

Now, I have nothing against goals. Goals are great! The problem isn’t having the goals, it’s telling ourselves that we can’t… SOMETHING… until we reach them. That we can’t give ourselves a break. That we can’t be happy. That our lives won’t be complete.

Until X.

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Embracing Change & Going With the Flow

streamHeraclitus (an ancient Greek philosopher) wrote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

I love this metaphor.

The moment you step in the water, it has already moved on, constantly flowing, constantly changing.

You may look at the river and see what looks like a single entity, but, of course, its very nature is constant change.

And, as Heraclitus so rightly points out, so is ours.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” —Heraclitus

Both we and our lives are constantly changing. Our bodies are changing. Our perspectives and even our personalities are growing and evolving, responding to the flow of our experiences. Our values may change. What we want may change. The circumstances and events of our lives are in a constant flux. Our emotions are ebbing and flowing from one moment to the next.

When we try to hold on to the moment, to prevent things from changing, we often feel out of control, desperate, afraid. Sort of like trying to hold on to water as it flows through our hands. Read More


Cultural Adjustment, Part 5: Wrapping Up & Food for Thought

adventureIn the last several posts, we’ve been discussing various aspects of the cultural adjustment process that many expats may experience when moving abroad.

We’ve discussed the experience of culture shock, reviewed some models of cultural adjustment, looked into the experience of repatriation (moving back home after time abroad), and covered some topics specific to moving abroad with kids or teens.

While these articles have only begun to scratch the surface, I hope that they have given you some things to think about as you prepare for your international move or as you try to make sense of your current experiences living abroad.

I’m sure this won’t be the last blog post on cultural adjustment, but it is the final post in this Cultural Adjustment Series, and I wanted to leave you with a few take-home points.
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Cultural Adjustment, Part 4: Moving Abroad with Kids & Teens

teenIn the last several posts in this Cultural Adjustment Series, we’ve looked at the phenomenon of culture shock, the phases of cultural adjustment, and the experience of moving home after a time abroad.

In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at how culture shock and cultural adjustment have a unique impact on kids and teens and how you can help your child prepare for or adapt to an international move.

Culture Shock for Kids & Teens

While some of the things we’ve discussed in the previous articles may also apply to kids and teens who move abroad (such as the various manifestations of stress) their experiences can also be quite different from those of their parents.

For one thing, adults are generally in charge of making the decision to move abroad. Even if they are under pressure or have mixed feelings about it, most of the time, they can ultimately say yes or no to an opportunity. Read More


Cultural Adjustment, Part 3: There’s No Place Like Home

welcome-matIn the previous article in this Cultural Adjustment Series, we covered some of the most popular theories of cultural adjustment — the U-Curve and W-Curve models.

As I mentioned at the end of that article, one aspect of the expat or international student experience that is often left out of these models is the experience of moving back home after having lived abroad for a period of time.

We generally assume that moving back home should go smoothly — after all, it’s home! But this isn’t always the case.

Let’s take a closer look at the process of what is sometimes called repatriation or reintegration — a.k.a. going home.  Read More


Cultural Adjustment, Part 2: The Expat Rollercoaster

roller-coasterIn the previous article in this Cultural Adjustment Series, we discussed the concept of culture shock and how it can manifest differently for different people.

Today, we’ll cover some of the basic theories or models of cultural adjustment that have been developed over time to explain the experience of expats and international students when they move abroad.

(This is a longer-than-usual post, but it’s full of information that I hope you’ll find useful!) Read More


Cultural Adjustment, Part 1: Say Hello to Culture Shock

photo-1437623889155-075d40e2e59fMoving to a new country and adapting to a new culture is both incredibly rewarding and unbelievably challenging — sometimes at the same time.

Researchers have developed a number of different theories to try to better understand the process of adjusting to a new cultural environment. In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of ‘culture shock’ and how it can manifest differently for different people.

Then, in the next few articles in this Cultural Adjustment Series, we’ll discuss some of the theories of cultural adjustment, as well as some of their limitations — and how all of this might help you make sense of your own experience of life abroad. Read More


Introduction to the Cultural Adjustment Series

Let’s kick off the new year with a series of posts on the cultural adjustment experience!

sunset-691848_640While living abroad can be an exhilarating and incredibly enriching experience, the process of adjusting to a new culture can also be quite stressful — sometimes downright overwhelming. The ups and downs can be extreme, causing emotional whiplash if you’re not careful.

Having some sense of where you’re going — or at least knowing that what you’re experiencing is normal — can be reassuring and can help you trust that your current struggles as part of an ongoing process. Remember: whatever challenges you’re experiencing right now, the story isn’t over yet. Read More


Thanksgiving & Gratitude

fallFall is upon us!

The leaves are changing colors. The air is crisp. There’s the smell of fall in the breeze.

For those of us from North America, this time of year means Thanksgiving — Canadians just recently celebrated theirs, and those of us from the US are gearing up for ours later this week!

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, why not use this time of year as a reminder to step back and reflect on all the things in your life for which you feel thankful?

It’s easy to get focused on what’s frustrating or stressful, what we miss about life back home, or just on the daily grind. But taking the time to actively cultivate gratitude and appreciation for the gifts in our lives can have enormous benefits — to our emotional wellbeing, our physical health, and our relationships with those that matter most to us.

Sometimes we just need reminders. And a little practice.

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