You did it! You found your healthcare job that you love in a country that you have always dreamed of going to. You’ve applied and been accepted as a full-fledged employee! Working abroad means new adventures, strengthening your sense of independence, and enjoying expat life. Even menial activities, IV’s and observations, in a foreign country can be new and exciting.
Eventually though, even working within a great employer and in a great health jobs abroad, you’re bound to have a bad days and feel home-sick and have periods of loneliness. The discharge drugs are late again and someone keeps yelling at you in another language. Bad days are not a sign that you’re not cut out for working abroad or that you should hightail it back home. They are a totally normal part of living overseas and getting through the bad days is another reminder that you can take care of yourself even in a foreign country.
Here’s how to Prevent Home-sickness and Loneliness while working abroad
1. Take a Walk
The best thing about having a bad day while on the job abroad is that you can turn it around so quickly. When you’re back home, chances are your most promising remedy to a bad day is curling up in bed with a Netflix marathon and a king size chocolate bar, but when you’re overseas, there’s always a new adventure right around the corner. When you have an opportune moment, ask for a short break. Stretch your legs and head off into a neighbourhood you haven’t walked through before (safety permitted, of course!).
In any workplace, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day frustrations of your job. Remind yourself that you could be at home stuck at that same ward you’ve been working since qualifying, but instead you’re taking the risk of experiencing life and work in a foreign country. Take in the new sights and smells that you discover on even a short walk through the neighbourhood and marvel at the way life is conducted in the streets of whatever country you’re in. Maybe it’s the laundry hung in balconies in the crowded alleys of London or the Bedouin man pushing a cart down the cobblestone street, your gazing at the sunset in Australia. Stay curious, stay excited, and enjoy the little things.
When you are missing home or had a bad day on the ward, it can hit your confidence, self-esteem and forget why you decided to take on the challenge of working abroad. It is very important to remember the reasons why you decided to travel abroad. For some it might be to save money, return money to loved ones. When you’re having a bad day, look at your bank balance, focus on how much you have earned already, been able to save, sent home and how the money have affected others. This can be a great motivator to keep you focused on reaching your financial goal.
3. Plan a trip
One of the best parts about working abroad is being able to explore the surrounding areas of the city you’re based in. If you’re working in Europe this could mean weekend trips to London, or if you land a job Down-under , it could be a camping trip in the Bush. You’ll be reminded why you were so excited to work abroad in the first place. Remember how exhilarating it was to meticulously plan each part of your journey? For travellers, there are few things as thrilling as planning out a new trip.
So bust out that Lonely Planet book you’ve stuffed at the bottom of your bag and pull up the travel blogs that you bookmarked. Invite your co-workers to come with you, because chances are if you’re stressed at work, so are they. Plus, a group trip is a great way to form bonds that make you an even more productive and successful team!
The best way to get over a bad day, whether at home or abroad, is to be grateful for what’s going right in your life. And if you’re able to work abroad, you have a lot to be grateful for! It’s easy to get bogged down by the tedious tasks of your job. But take a step back and look at the bigger picture. You haven’t moved to another country just to work; you’ve moved overseas to experience a new way of life. If all else fails, imagine the alternative: being stuck in a the same old place at home where your only form of travel is staring at the tropical island screensaver on your laptop. Starting to feel a bit better about your day?
5. Think of everything as a learning experience
Even if you land your dream job working in your dream country, you may be stuck doing some tasks that are less than desirable. Working abroad means you must be flexible. Even if you’re an experienced doctor or nurse back home, practising may be challenging when you’re facing different cultural customs. Remember that you’re the outsider, and will need to adapt to the local way of life.
Your employer may end up placing you on projects that you don’t have much experience in, which can be particularly frustrating if you would rather be working on other assignments. If this seems to be an ongoing problem, it’s definitely worth sitting down with your employer and voicing your concerns. Continued frustration with your position will only lead to resentment and eventually sour your experience of working abroad.
But, if you’re mixing it up your role you love and tasks, you’re less stoked about, try to have an open mind. Trust your employer; they may see a talent in you that you’ve never discovered yourself. Whatever you end up doing, work as hard as you can in your position.
If you’re having a really bad day working abroad, you may want to throw in the towel and fly back home. Don’t panic! If you’re feeling really homesick it may seem logical to cut off all communication with home at the risk of missing your friends and family even more, but keeping in touch with your loved ones can actually be uplifting during bouts of homesickness. With Skype/Whatsapp/Facebook, and all the other social media channels, you really have no excuse not to stay in communication. Having a digital detox? No problem! Kick it old school by sending a letter or postcard back home!
If your friends and family are supportive of your decision to work abroad, connecting with those cheerleaders can be empowering. Tell them about your incredible experiences finding your way around a new country and the amazing work you’re doing. They will be in awe that you had the guts to move to another country, find a job, and create a life for yourself, even if only for a few months. Chances are, they’re probably super jealous as well. Take advantage of the opportunity to grumbleabout how cheap you can get your laundry done or about the delicious little cafe shop on the corner. You’ll walk away from your Skype call feeling more excited than ever about your life.
7. Talk to your colleagues
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at work, but add to that the extra stress of navigating through a new country and foreign language. Yikes! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone who has ever worked abroad has one of those confusing, frustrating days where they want to give up. Maybe your Ward Manager or patient that you’re caring isn’t going as smoothly as planned or you’re having trouble communicating with your patients because of cultural differences. Take a breath and talk to your colleagues or line manager about it. Chances are they’ve gone through many of the same obstacles that you’re experiencing. Your line manager can give you advice and possibly lighten your workload if it’s too overwhelming. Don’t be embarrassed to chat with your colleagues about your bad day. It’s important to build a support network while you’re away from friends and family back home.
8. Attend local embassy events
If you are unfortunate to be in a capital city or city with embassy’s, many facilitate ex-pat events and many on a weekly. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia the American embassy hold monthly pool parties with Bourbon on tap, the Italian consulate have open air cinema’s where you can enjoy a glass of wine, whilst not trying to be distracted by the bats flying above your heads. The UK consulate have a traditional pub. They are great ways to make new friends
9. Revisit your hobbies or sport
When you find yourself board, alone with nothing to do and missing home, pick up an old or new hobby can allow you to enjoy your own space whilst being productive with something you enjoy. Alternatively take a look at local leisure or sports centres and take on a activity or sport. This is also a great way to find new friends as well as occupy your time whilst looking after your self well-being.
10. Eating something exotic and local
If all of the above fail, treat yourself to a little food therapy! A major highlight of moving to a new country is learning about the culture through their cuisine. Food and drink can tell you a lot about the local traditions and history. If you’re having a bad day, treat yourself to a big lunch and try a few different things on the menu. Or better yet, do a lunch crawl and taste different specialities of several restaurants on your street. The best part? You can justify it as “cultural research.”
Bad days at work are bound to happen regardless of where you are in the world. A bad day while working abroad may be intensified by the stress and challenges of working overseas, but if you look at the alternative, you could be having a terrible day stuck in a monotonous shifts back home. Instead you’re in a foreign country, where a bad day has the potential to turn into a fabulous adventure! After all, the challenging days are the ones you’ll look back on and remember that you’re a better person because of it and that can take on the world!
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