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Life in Europe: That's why I moved back to America

Life in Europe: That's why I moved back to America

Nadia went to Europe with high expectations, but found that reality did not live up to them.
Courtesy of Nadia Crevecoeur

Nadia Crevecoeur, a 26-year-old project manager, has seen friends have great experiences abroad.

But after eight months living in Europe, she felt isolated, homesick and misunderstood.

Returning to America in 2023, Crevecoeur says he feels like himself again.

This is a machine translation of an article by our American colleagues at Business Insider. It is automatically translated and checked by a real editor.

This article is based on a conversation with Nadia Crevecoeur, a 26-year-old project manager from New York who has lived in China, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, and Italy. America in 2023. The following text has been edited for length and clarity.

I have always had a strong interest in international culture and politics and consider myself a global citizen. That was my outlook on life, and my studies led me in that direction. In college, I studied international relations and had the privilege of living abroad – in Geneva (Switzerland) and Brussels (Belgium). I was very happy in these countries. After graduation, I thought of joining an international teaching program and following in the footsteps of my friends.

Many people who study or work in international relations live abroad. I have seen many people do this successfully. I thought they lived great lives and had life-changing experiences, and I wanted that too.

When you move to a new country, you realize that your mindset is different. There are many small things that contribute to cultural change such as food, language and customs. At school I thought I wanted to be a nomad. But after moving to Europe in 2022 to teach, I realized I couldn't live abroad unless I lived very close to America. It's not just me.

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Living in a country is not the same as seeing it

I think a lot of people don't realize that studying abroad is a completely different experience than studying abroad. I was not new to European culture, but the cultural differences I experienced there were more than I initially expected. During the eight months I lived in Europe, I felt a lot of isolation and homesickness. I know every traveler struggles with this but for me it was overwhelming.

I am generally very open minded. I like to do something, whether it's walking and taking pictures or checking out a new cafe – I'm having a lot of fun. But I realized that I no longer want to do the same things that normally excite me. My personality started changing in a way that I didn't know about myself. I became very introverted and stopped engaging with people. I am generally considered a nerd, but it has become very difficult to complete even simple tasks. Depression can look different for black women – I'm just not familiar with it.

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Nadia Crevecoeur.

Nadia Crevecoeur.
Courtesy of Nadia Crevecoeur

I felt alone and misunderstood

I never went into it thinking it would be easy because I knew it was hard. My parents are a living example of the difficulties experienced by immigrants. When I lived in Europe, several factors helped me feel more and more like an outsider – never on purpose, but they all came together.

Although my race is talked about a lot in America – and it is in all our forms of government – ​​I find it's not talked about much in Europe. I feel fully human when I'm understood or don't need to justify my existence. I had to do that all the time in Europe – people were so confused about my identity. My parents immigrated to Haiti and I was born in the United States. In America, I am not only a woman, but a black woman. It is an important part of how I see myself in this world.

Whenever I tried to explain my identity to the Europeans, they were very confused. “Why do you always bring up birthmarks?” Or people would say, “Your parents are Haitian, so you're Haitian,” and I have to explain to them that I don't really speak Creole, I wasn't born. In Haiti. They just couldn't understand.

The identities are complex and nuanced, so I don't want to make accusations about their culture here. What I'm saying is that as someone who grew up with a strong understanding of my own identity, I was surprised and exhausted when I found myself in situations where I was constantly being screwed over.

I don't want to do anything with it.

Nadia Crevecoeur.

Nadia Crevecoeur.
Courtesy of Nadia Crevecoeur

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I am very happy living in America

I went back to America in 2023. I live in New York, where I was born, and my family is nearby. I feel 100 percent like myself again, and a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders—I feel like I have more control over my life. Sometimes you don't notice how much your environment weighs you down until you change it.

In the larger travel community, a lot of people say, “Hey, it's easy to just pack up and move your whole life,” and I see articles about people having the time of their lives. I feel constantly immersed in this perspective, but there is so much more that no one talks about.

I often talk about failure on my blog because I was unable to successfully adapt to a new culture. But when I think about it, I think the fact that I went alone probably made a big difference in my experience. If you have a permanent reference person abroad, for example a partner or friend accompanying you, I can imagine that feeling of isolation would be a bit easier.

For most of my life, being far away from my family didn't bother me. But as I got older, I got more nostalgic. I think it has a lot to do with the various milestones my family has reached over the past few years. When I was working abroad in 2022, I came home to visit my family. We watched old videos of my siblings and I from baptisms and birthday parties, and it was so cute to see the younger versions of us in these 20-year-old videos.

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I realized I wouldn't be in my niece's home pictures. I wanted my siblings' children to remember me and not just know who I was. It was very difficult for me to miss important family moments. It put everything into perspective for me. My goal in living abroad was to be successful, but I didn't see myself as successful as I was in America.

This article appeared on March 11, 2024 and was updated on March 12, 2024.

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