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The American who moved to Europe regretted it and returned to the United States

The American who moved to Europe regretted it and returned to the United States

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

  • Nadia Crèvecoeur, the 26-year-old project manager, saw that her friends had amazing experiences living abroad.
  • But when she lived in Europe for eight months, she felt isolated, homesick and misunderstood.
  • Crevecoeur, who returned to the United States in 2023She said she feels like herself again.

This telling article is based on a conversation with Nadia Crèvecoeur, a 26-year-old project manager from New York, who has traveled and lived in many countries, including China, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, and Italy. Italy, before returning to the United States in 2023. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I have always had a strong interest in international culture and politics, and saw myself as someone who could become a global citizen. This was the vision I had for my life, and my studies led me in this direction.

In college, I studied International Affairs and had the privilege of living abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and Brussels, Belgium. I had a great time in those countries. After graduation, I thought about participating in an international education program and following in my friends' footsteps.

Many people who study international affairs or work in this field end up living abroad. I have seen many people do this successfully. I thought they had wonderful lives and had life-changing experiences, and I wanted that for myself.

When moving to a new country, you have to realize that your mindset is different. There are a lot of little things that contribute to cultural transformation such as food, language, and even behaviors.

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At school, I thought I wanted to be a nomad and wander around.

But after moving to Europe to teach in 2022, I found that unless I lived very close to the United States, I didn't think I could live abroad. It's not just for me.

Living somewhere is not the same as visiting

I don't think many people realize that studying abroad is a completely different experience from working and living abroad.

I'm not new to European culture, but the cultural differences I experienced while living there were much more than I initially expected.

The reality of social media is that whenever you mention a particular country, people from there tend to send you hate messages, so I'll generally leave it out.

Nadia Crèvecoeur.
Courtesy of Nadia Crèvecoeur

During the eight months I lived in Europe, I felt a lot of isolation and homesickness. I know every traveler deals with this, but I felt overwhelmed.

I'm usually a very outgoing person. I love getting out to do anything, even if it's just walking around taking photos or exploring a new café – I'm very passionate about having fun. But I started to notice that I didn't want to do the same things that usually turned me on.

My personality began to change in a way that I had never known myself. I became very introverted and stopped interacting with people. I'm usually described as an overachiever, but basic tasks like sticking to a schedule have become very difficult to do.

Depression looks different in black women, which is something I wasn't aware of.

I felt alone and misunderstood

I never went into this thinking it would be easy, because I know it's hard. My parents are a living example of the difficulties immigrants face.

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While living in Europe, many factors contributed to a greater sense of “I'm not from here, I'm a foreigner.” It was never intentional, but it all piled up.

While race is widely talked about in the United States — it is present in all models of our government — I realized that it is not talked about as much in Europe.

What makes me feel complete as a person is being understood or not having to justify my existence. I used to do this constantly in Europe – people were confused about who I was. My parents are immigrants from Haiti, and I was born in the United States.

In the context of the United States, I am not just a woman, I am a black woman. It's a big part of how I see myself in this world.

Nadia Crèvecoeur.
Courtesy of Nadia Crèvecoeur

Whenever I tried to explain my identity to Europeans, they were confused. People might say, “Why do you always bring race into the conversation,” or, “Your parents are from Haiti, so you're Haitian.”

I have to explain to them that I don't really speak Creole, and that I wasn't born in Haiti. They couldn't calculate, it was like a glitch.

Identities are complex and nuanced, so I'm not here to indict their culture. I'm just saying, as someone who grew up with a strong understanding of my own identity, finding myself in situations where I always felt overwhelmed was surprising and exhausting.

It wasn't something I wanted to deal with.

I am much happier living in the United States

In 2023, I returned to the United States.

I'm based in New York, where I was born, and have family close by. I feel 100% like myself again, and a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders – I feel on top of my life.

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Sometimes, you don't realize how much your environment is weighing on you until you change it.

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

You my blogI talk a lot about how I felt somewhat of a failure because I wasn't able to successfully adapt to the new culture. But given that, I think the fact that I went alone probably made a big difference in my experience. I imagine feeling isolated is a bit easier if you have someone built in with you on the outside, like a partner or friend.

For most of my life, being away from my family never bothered me. But as I got older, I became more homesick. I think it has a lot to do with the different accomplishments my family has had in the past few years.

When I was working abroad in 2022, I came home to visit my family. We watched old videotapes of my siblings' baptisms and birthday parties, and it was so nice to see the younger versions of ourselves in those 20-year-old home videos.

I realized I wasn't going to be in any of my niece's home videos. I wanted my siblings' children to remember me, not just know who I was.

It was very difficult for me to comprehend the missing key family moments. It put everything into perspective for me.

My goal for living abroad was to be successful, but I didn't see myself thriving as I did in the United States.

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