Why Moving Abroad Was the Best and Worst Decision I’ve Ever Made

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By Evamarie Joubert

When I was in high school, I always imagined I’d move to Europe. At the time, I was studying French and could easily envision myself walking the streets of Paris and perfecting my pronunciation of “Je voudrais un’altre croissant, sil vous plait.”  I’m optimistic so of course, I assumed that my life would be perfect and I’d have no issues while living in the city of love. 

Well, the saying is true that when we plan, God laughs, because even though I made my way to Europe, I never even stepped foot in France. Instead, I chose to spend 4 months studying abroad in Rome – a time that marked an intense period of growth and learning – before moving there full-time 6 years later.

However, living in Rome as a student and living in Rome as an adult who has to work and pay rent is a completely different experience and I struggled. For foreigners, Italy is romanticized. Rome is a city that is known for its beauty, a beauty so blinding it’s difficult to imagine that there can be days where you’d want to rip your hair out from frustration. The public transportation is a nightmare, the bureaucracy is enough to leave you in tears, and the lack of customer service will have you wanting to curse out every Italian you see. 

Although, to be fair, it wasn’t just Rome that made my life difficult. I was trying to start a business (that ultimately failed) while living off of minimal savings, and trying to acclimate to a new country! It was madness. Sometimes I spent my mornings scrolling through Instagram, depressed that I wasn’t making money from my business like I planned, freaking out that my savings were dwindling, and feeling like a failure because I was struggling when it seemed like everyone else in the world was having fun, making money and being carefree. 

I had this perfect idea of what Rome and my life there was going to be like but reality wasn’t matching up to what I expected. Instead, I spent my first 6 months really confused and disappointed with how my life appeared to others. In my mind, I felt like a failure and I assumed that others saw me in the same way. I was so stuck in negativity, I couldn’t see that I had just accomplished one of my biggest life goals of living abroad.

To be clear, I wasn’t in complete misery my first year in Italy. I started building a life for myself, made friends, and even fell in love. Similar, to my first time in the city, Rome was forcing me to grow. I had to learn to become less concerned with how my life appeared on the outside and determine how did I feel about my life. Instead of looking outward for approval of the decisions I’d made I chose to find approval within myself. By reflecting on what made me feel truly fulfilled, I realized that my misery stemmed from my misguided attempts to fit myself into an idea t others’ believed to be worthy or valuable.  

Consequently, I understood that despite the high amount of struggle, I had made the right decision in moving to Rome and my pertaining failures had to be faced and accepted. Not blame myself, or feel humiliated in the choices I’d made but fully accept that I acted in faith and the belief that I could make my life what I wanted it to be. Finally I had to acknowledge that this year of pain, confusion, and doubt helped give me the sharpest level of clarity I’ve ever had. 

This ancient city of beauty and hardship, reminded me of who I am. A woman who is determined, pushes through fear, possess incredible strength, and is always willing to learn through failure, success, and the moments where confusion is my only guide. 

I can’t say that I will be in this city forever, but I know how greatly it has affected me. Roma, will always be in my soul.