All posts by Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.
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Traveling and Relationships

(All this image is missing is a few loved ones. Photo by: www.ulixis.com)

There are many kinds of relationships that are important to us for our overall mental health, and they all become even more important when we travel abroad because our mental health is pushed to the limit in new ways. Relationships can help keep you well-founded when you otherwise feel like you’re drowning in an unfamiliar world.

The most important relationships when going abroad for a long stay are the ones you’re “leaving behind” at home. Your family and your friends have been there for you during your “normal” at-home life, they know you well, and they are the people the most likely to stick by your side. No matter how many cool new people you meet abroad, your relationships back home will be your anchor, especially because people you meet abroad tend to keep moving around themselves.

Relationships(friendships are an important relationship. Photo by: www.vipinramdas.com)

I admit that I’m not the best at cultivating relationships with people back home because I get so caught up with where I am. But it’s important to remember that those people are doing exciting things, too. I have probably made more meaningful connections with my best friend back home while being abroad than ever before because of how it has made us open up. The physical or abstract things that cheer me up the most are usually movies that remind me of people back home and care packages my mother sends, so that goes to show that people can touch you in indirect ways and are therefore still with you and important to you.

However, there have undoubtedly been times when new friends here have lent a helping hand or given me some advice that has helped me in huge ways. Most of the people I meet don’t stay in one place for long, so they have learned some invaluable lessons that they then pass on to me. Of course, that also means that I have to somehow get used to constantly making new friends that I will inevitably “lose” within months or a year because I happen to be the one staying in one place, but it’s always worth it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have my friends back from a previous year, but then I meet someone new that teaches me something amazing and I realize what a blessing it was to have had those old friends at all. Even if they keep moving away, each new friend is priceless.

The hardest relationships to navigate are probably the romantic ones. It’s pretty challenging to date when abroad because you feel pulled between worlds and starting a relationship can feel like settling down when you may not want to. It definitely doesn’t work to try to keep a long-distance relationship with someone back home- both Andrea and I can attest to that. But I have met so many young girls in this area each year that prove over and over how important it is to not jump into something with just any guy, either. A relationship with someone of another nationality while abroad can seem so dreamy, but people are people, and people can hurt. Meaningful relationships have to be sought out with care, no matter where you live or for how long. Don’t let that cute accent fool you, because you may end up realizing that there was nothing behind that tantalizing facade. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t date at all; it simply means that you should keep your guard up until trust is earned.

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(romance abroad- photo by: www.hercampus.com)

Even if I love the city I live in and have lots of exciting new experiences here that I would never have had back home, my friends and family are what keep me happy. No beautiful architecture, breathtaking mountains, or fun beach moments will make your heart happy if you’re not keeping a close eye on your relationships. They are a blessing that keep me going each day, especially in times of homesickness.
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” ~Frederick Buechner

  

Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.

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Should You Visit Home During A Long Time Abroad

(Featured photo by: thecrowdwire.org)

I feel like this is one of the hardest questions you face when you’re planning a trip abroad for ten months to one year. The pros and cons are all there- you shouldn’t go home because then you may not want to return to the foreign country, but then again it can be like recharging your battery to go home and see family, etc. Most of it depends on the individual person, but sometimes the situation is easier to read.

The younger you are, the more you should NOT visit home, at least considering that the time is not more than one year. Why? Because the less experience you have being away from home, the more you’ll be tempted to simply return home for good and miss out on so many wonderful opportunities abroad. Of course, it’s hard to put an age range on this, but the age range of study abroad-ers from about 18 to 24 is probably the hardest hit. However, I would say that it’s more accurately those who are going abroad on their own for the first time, especially the first time for a one-year duration, that are most encouraged to stick out the long stay without the visit back home.

If finances are hard, even for your parents/guardians, don’t empty that savings account just because the chance to go home is really nice. Being a young person abroad, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to afford the tickets home and back, which means you’ll be leaning on others for the expenses. Some travelers are lucky enough to go home when desired, but don’t put that pressure on family if they don’t really have the funds either. My advice is to ask them for a care package instead. It can still be pricey to send a box abroad, but it’s nothing compared to a plane ticket, and some little things from home make a huge difference in your happiness abroad.

Despite these important factors, I think the most crucial one is to plan from the beginning whether or not you’ll go home. If you wait to decide until you’re a few months in to see if you have the time/money, the chance is that you’ll be making the decision during your “down” time on the “W scale”, which will make you want to go home for the wrong reasons. And if you don’t plan on going home and it works out as a happy accident, great! But if you plan to go home and then it falls through because of lack of preparation, you’re going to be in for a rough ride. Your ducks have to be in a row no matter where or when you’re traveling! This has been my most recent problem and now the homesickness is worse than before.
Lots of big decisions have to be made before your time abroad, and whether or not to go home is a huge part of that. Write out the pros and cons, evaluate your own personality and situation, and make a choice that you can stick to. But if you can’t go home- don’t despair! Most families can afford small care packages, or if not, little mementos and lots of Skype calls will do the trick. It’s not the end of the world to be away from home for a year. Stay positive and have fun!

  

Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.

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How To Stay Optimistic On Long-Term Trips

(image by www.nacel.org)

I’ve become somewhat infamous in my friends circle with my problems getting a residence permit, the problem being simply that it’s taking ages and I have no idea why. As a result of this issue, I’ve been terribly homesick as I’m going to miss yet another trip home. The last time I went home was almost exactly 10 months ago, which wouldn’t be the end of the world except that now it looks like it will be a duration of at least 16 months before going home. It’s definitely a bummer.

However, everyone I talked to has been really uplifting. It helps to tell my story to new people because I hear advice that I hadn’t heard previously, or I at least get a few minutes of consoling, which is nice because I know the people here empathize with visa bureaucracy. And last week during @RealityAbroad ‘s weekly twitter travel chat with the theme being homesickness, I got some really good advice.

The best advice was to stay physically active. As long as you’re active, you don’t have time to be homesick. @mcallisterjeff said, “Refocusing your energy, rather than resting, is often the best strategy.” In tandem with that was the idea of traveling to see new places. Even if I’m limited to one country, I definitely haven’t seen everything and this beautiful country has a lot to offer. I can also reflect and realize how great some things here are, like the quality of fresh food and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. (And the summers in Geneva are actually pretty kickin’. Makes up for the dreary winters.) There’s also the basic advice to push through the “sad period,” because when you do, you’ll be able to enjoy everything around you and appreciate home that much more when you finally do make the journey.

 glob1-jpg(Being physically active helps. Image by: www.glogster.com)

I definitely identify with how important it is to not stay in a “funk” for a long period. Being homesick can drag down every other part of your life, like your relationships with others because of your obvious lack of interest. But no matter how awful it seems, this is not a problem that will last forever. You will eventually make that trip home and it will be amazing. So, don’t let that sadness spoil your time abroad and make you miss great opportunities.

Now that my classes and exams have just finished, I’m going to try to make specific goals to accomplish to keep myself busy, like blogging regularly, starting to relearn Spanish, and finding a physical activity I like that I can do regularly (gotta face the facts and get in shape for summer sundresses and swimsuits!).
So, if you’re going to be abroad for a long time without a trip home, it will probably be challenging, especially if it’s your first time away for so long. But you have to remember that you’re not alone and that there are so many people who have been through the exact same thing who can support you. Find regular activities and a solid support group, and you’ll be fine.

 

 

  

Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.

Badge - 2008 election

Vote and Discover

(photo by: www.texasgopvote.com)

For a limited time, bab.la is hosting their annual Top 100 Language Lovers voting for learning blogs, professional blogs, facebook pages, twitterers, and youtube channels. So you can head over here: http://en.bab.la/news/top-100-language-learning-blogs-2014-voting until June 9th for voting.

But this annual contest is not only an opportunity to support any language sites you know that made the cut, but a way to discover more sites that you haven’t previously heard of! There are some amazing writers out there, not only for foreign languages but also in regards to grammar, language evolution, etc. And as there are both individual professional blogs and dictionary blogs that host professional writers, these connections are definitely worth your time.

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I myself follow both foreign language blogs, like the incomparable Benny’s Fluent in 3 Months, and English language blogs like Stan Carey’s Sentence First. And there are quite a few great professional twitterers that I love keeping up with as well. But even though my French is progressing nicely, the learning never ends, and so I plan on checking out more sites that address my needs. And this is, of course, a great motivational tool if you have a desire to start a language blog yourself and could one day make the list.
Don’t wait until it’s too late- check it out and vote now!

 

  

Chelsea Fairless

Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.