Image description: A header illustration of a student trying to navigate oneself to their destination and goal in life including graduating, moving, and healthcare.
Image description: A header illustration of a student trying to navigate oneself to their destination and goal in life including graduating, moving, and healthcare.

Illustration by Gyeongeun Lee

Multiple moves, multiple homes finding myself amid it all

When I moved to Abu Dhabi a year ago, I thought I could easily find a new home. I thought I was ready. But once the excitement died down, I realized that I will always need kind, helpful people around me.

May 8, 2023

Nobody likes to be told they are not ready for the world, much less a stubborn, emotionally-charged teenager hell-bent on leaving home as soon as they can. Two years ago, that teenager was told by their parents, in a calm voice so as to make them understand, that moving to a different country is no easy task even for full-grown adults. That teenager had scoffed at them. That teenager was me.
As with 99 percent of things in my life, my parents were right. No matter how much I prided myself on switching 14 schools in my lifetime, dealing with being the new kid, adapting to new environments, and memorizing new roads, absolutely nothing could have fully prepared me for living on campus.
Marhaba week, I was in shock. I was talking to everyone, but I wasn’t talking to anyone. It seemed like an endless stream of arduous small talk. At the same time, I was confused because while all the events were fun, I did not understand why my heart ached when I returned home. Or why I suddenly stopped in the middle of the dance floor, looked around the silent disco to everyone with their headphones on, and wondered how they managed to look like they did not miss home at all. I did not understand why suddenly at lunch with someone, I had the urge to smash the tray on their heads when they asked me something about myself I had already narrated to fifteen people before them. The hardest part of moving places, for me, was always moving through them. Dismantling, collecting, packaging and sealing all the parts of me, all the relationships I had so painstakingly built over years from India, and rearranging them here in a way that convinced me that I was still the same person, that I was still intact inside. Getting people to know you the way you want them to …. it is not an easy task. It takes so much time and so many introductions and so many “my name’s not pronounced the way it is spelled.”
And there was my ego, hounding me, weighing my hand down every time I tried to pick up my phone, call my mom and tell her she was right, that college really is hard, that living away from home is too and that I miss her so much. Moving to college was the hardest transition in my life, and I am positive I have moved much more than the average person. I was surrounded by people my age, the kind of diverse crowd I wanted to be surrounded with ever since I was 13. And yet, life has a way of making you wish you never wished for something, because I had never been surrounded by so many strangers at the same time, with absolutely no known connections that I could rely on as social buffers.
As if having my entire life changed wasn’t enough, I turned 18 in a foreign country. I became an adult; even the most minute day-to-day things I had to relearn how to do — attending classes, making friends, taking elevators. Some things, like laundry room conversations, were entirely new and more jarring than they should have been. Managing my own finances, I’m still getting the hang of that one.
But you know what I’ve found? When it comes to navigating life transitions, people really are the most valuable resource you can ever have, because when you have to pick up your entire life from one place to another all over the globe, time and time again, the only thing that you take with you is your relationships, the people and the love they give. It takes a little while to find it, but there is so much help and goodwill everywhere we go.
Kind, helpful, friendly people are the reason I’m okay now, the reason I say NYU Abu Dhabi when people ask me where my home is, the reason I am comfortably living in a foreign country, sitting in my dorm typing this out. I think this person I am now may not exactly be who that fiery teenager had imagined when they had so confidently declared that they would be just fine living without their family, but I reckon I’m alright.
Tiesta Dangwal is Deputy Features Editor. Email them at
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