Photo by: Soroush Karimi

It’s my first time being truly alone.

A little daunting.

Tremendously scary.

I was told that solo exploration builds you as a person.

When I worked abroad one summer, I had no friends and didn’t have any interns close to my age that I could get along with. Even though my mother was with me and we had a lot of mother-daughter bonding time, I felt incredibly lonely.

I did learn to be okay with being alone and exploring the side streets of the city. I tried to be more present.

But despite being in a crowd full of faces that similarly reflected what was mine in the mirror, I felt different all the same.

I spoke the language, but my accent made me stand out. My head would bob along the tops of the crowd. I mumbled in English when I couldn’t express myself in Chinese. People were brash, rude, and always in a hurry. I was mellow, easily overwhelmed, and quick to say “sorry” (it’s a true Canadian stereotype).

People had planted their roots into the land and the culture, yet I was merely a lonely seed floating, looking for a place to call home.

And now, I’m abroad in Europe in a small town to finish the last of my studies. The glamour of being away from home has slowly worn off and the longing for a connection has begun to creep in. Reality seemed to have shattered my expectations.

For the first time, I have truly learned to appreciate the multi-cultural aspect of my home town and my country. I am fully experiencing and living through some of the difficulties that my parents had when they immigrated to Canada. I barely speak the language here, I barely scrape by with Google Translate, and I miss the warmth and kindness.

I miss having people around me who I know have my back.

I miss seeing people that look like me.

I see a familiar looking face and instinctively I want to reach out. They look like a part of my identity, they hold a piece of home’s familiarity. But, the moment they speak, I know we’re from two different worlds and the illusion wears off.

Without friends to keep me grounded abroad, it’s difficult being left to my own devices and to the warring thoughts in my head.

But I know it will get better, because everyone has been telling me this is the time I get to truly explore: the world and who I am, and this is the time I get to grow into someone more resilient and independent than before. I can’t wait to see what adventures I’ll have, the people that fate will bring me towards, and the person I will find within myself, miles away from home.

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