By Mari Kuusinen, WE Microsoft Team Intern
It was my first week in Oregon, and while I was biking home from work, it was raining. I know – big surprise. I was hungry and had horrible jet lag, so I tried to find a grocery store and didn’t really pay attention to the traffic. Suddenly, a car pulled out in front of me. At home in Finland, my bike has leg breaks, but in the moment, I totally forgot that my American bike had hand breaks. A split second later I found myself lying on the ground next to my bike. My knees were bleeding, the sky was crying, and I hate to say, but I shed a few tears as well. There I was, the biggest loser ever, who couldn’t even ride her bike or find a grocery store.
I wanted to share this story with anyone who is planning to travel from far away to live and work in a new place. Not to scare them, but to pass along some tips on how to survive when things are not as you expected, and you find yourself in a strange place crying like a baby. I’ve spent three months in Oregon working at Waggener Edstrom, and the following are the survival tips I’ve learned:
1. Be proud of yourself.
Remember that in a new place, a foreign culture, you’re suddenly back in the first grade. You have to learn everything again: how to use the public transportation, how to pay the bills, even how to communicate with people. Remember not to compare yourself to the others. If you fail, push yourself up and try again. Be proud of all of the little things you achieve, even if it just means finding a grocery store or a nice park next to your house. And heck, the fact that you’ve made it to another country or a state to work already makes you a winner!
2. Make friends.
After spending the whole day at work with strange people, you might feel tired and overwhelmed and want to crawl into your room and sleep. But guess what? Your friends and family are not traveling with you. That means that you’re pretty much on your own when you’re facing any difficulties – unless you make new friends. Take some time alone to recharge your batteries if you need it, but as soon as you’re ready, be out and about. If you don’t find friends from work or from your hobbies, check out the local Couchsurfing community. This network usually brings together all the newcomers of the city. My friends have been my lifesavers here. They have helped me when I was fighting against my local phone company, when the government lost my social security number and when I needed a ride to the doctor. They have even offered me a place to stay when I suddenly ended up being homeless in a foreign country. And what’s even more important, they have shared all the awesome and unforgettable moments with me this summer.
3. Be adventurous.
Try new things like foods, hobbies, activities, anything. Go river floating, to a blues festival, try hanging out with “bros”, play beer pong, taste oysters and test dragon boating for the very first time. If you don’t like something, at least you have collected some good storytelling material. Try to keep your eyes and mind always open, and lay off the preconceptions.
This might sound like the biggest cliché ever, but things tend to be so much easier when you smile. You may end up saying stupid things, like dirty wife instead of thirty five, or panic in a PandaExpress, because they have too many options in their rice selection. And you are used to choosing only white rice, or you suddenly lost your capability to practice small talk and hide from your neighbors in your garage, but so what? That’s actually quite funny when you think about it later. So, to put it short – loosen up your tie and enjoy the ride!