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Expectations vs. Reality: Uprooting to a New Environment

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

Shoving the bag full of shoes into the trunk of my Volkswagen Beetle, I prayed that the door would close as items were tempting to escape their prison. Taking a deep breath, I slid into the passenger seat and watched as my mother pulled out of her driveway. On March 8th, 2019, my mother and I began the 12-hour drive towards San Francisco, the place where I would be staying for the next three months.


Was I nervous? To be honest, not really. Well, sort of, but I was more nervous about forgetting something important back in Arizona. I settled into my seat and thought about my plans of moving into my apartment, how I would introduce myself and integrate into the workplace, and how I would make friends in the Bay area.


It's easy to make plans: you write out the best time and location for an event, what you want to wear, and how you are going to act in front of others. However, it becomes harder when you are faced with the reality of the situation.


After my mother left for her flight back to Arizona, I prepared myself for my first day at my summer internship. I picked out my outfit, packed a lunch, and went to bed early. I woke up before my alarm, got ready for work, and showed up 20 minutes before my call time. My expected plans were meeting reality!


That night, I went to bed after a physically exhausting eight hours and repeated the same routine. I continued this routine throughout the week but would find myself placed in unhappy headspace.


Why?


I was an Arizonian trading the deathly Summer heat for the breezy Berkeley weather and interning at a company that I value very dearly for their kind, welcoming staff and values of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) work. However, I would find myself FaceTiming my Arizona roommates and friends feeling sad or questioning the decisions I had made that lead me to my current position.


Why?


I hadn't fully planned for the emotions that came with the adjustment period. Honestly, I don't think that's the first thing that comes to people's mind when planning: the "feelings". As the only new intern in my department, I was starting at a company with no ally. I was alone and sad with no one to talk about what I was going through. My friends in Arizona didn't seem to understand and just felt sad that I was feeling sad. Their sympathy wasn't something I needed or truly wanted, but I appreciated their compassionate words. However, I just wanted to have someone to talk to who was facing the same issues.


Unfortunately, no one can prepare you for the reality of uprooting yourself from a comfortable environment to a place that is foreign and the implications of loneliness. I know I have loving friends back at home, but it has been challenging the past few days trying to fit into my new environment.


With the arrival of hump day, I realized that I was expecting too much. I wanted the instantaneous connection of friendship with my new roommates or a coworker so that I could have someone to hang out with. The harsh reality of having no friends in a new environment was difficult to come to terms with and it was something that took a few days to accept.


For those facing a similar situation, I found solitude in knowing that other people have been in my position and have succeeded. During my freshman year, my friend uprooted herself from Georgia to attend Arizona State University. She had no friends and the first few weeks were tough, but now she has a support system that cares for her. It takes time but it'll happen eventually. It's important to take a few deep breaths and understand that everything won't align perfectly. Reach out to your friends and family as support as you transition into your new environment, and eventually, you will find your niche and develop friendships.


Friday rolled around and things turned brighter: my coworker offered to hang out with me in the upcoming weekend.


The first week was a hard pill to swallow and something I never experienced, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn and grow. It's important to know that others have gone through similar situations as they attend out-of-state universities, uproot to a new job, or take a Summer internship in a different state!


Ride the waves of the first week, settle in, and eventually, you will find your groove.

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