This is it. You’re going abroad. It’s going to be the best time of your life. Or so you’ve been told. You’ve packed your bags, said goodbye to your family, got your insurance, sorted out a house, planned some amazing trips, researched the culture and customs and legalities of where you’re going and you’re ready.

You walk into a bar on one of your first nights. You’re nervous. How do you say ‘shot’ in this language? Are you even allowed to drink here? The doubt floods in and there’s nerves behind your eyes and that’s when he sees you.

He’s charming at first. Maybe he speaks to you in a language you’re trying to master, maybe he compliments your accent or maybe he just sends a drink your way and for once you’re that girl. You’re not the girl who looks and acts like every other girl from your hometown. Here you’re exotic, different and he finds that’s magnetizing. I’m not saying that he wasn’t intrigued, all I’m saying is that in his environment, surrounded by people he knows, bars he’s visited for years, and music he’s been brought up wit, you should have been a little bit more careful.

 

You never once stop to think about what you’re doing. The red flags aren’t red here. Cultural differences are hard and complex and that’s all that’s happening, right? You just didn’t do enough research. You try to convince yourself that you’re not in that deep, you don’t care that much, and yet you find yourself changing, morphing into a version of yourself that you think he’ll like. Your new friends are concerned, as they see the light fading from behind your eyes and they silently worry, knowing they have no real right to intervene in such a baby friendship.

And then come the tears. Only they’re not just tears. This is real, unadulterated heartbreak. And not just because he kissed another girl or stopped replying to your texts or can’t get over his ex. You feel stupid. Used and washed up. He doesn’t want you. You’re stuck in a country where you don’t know if questioning this is normal. You go into your own head and wonder what you did wrong. Were you not Italian enough, not Mexican enough, not Norwegian enough for him? You begin to hate your culture for sculpting you into the kind of girl that he doesn’t want, but hating this new one even more for never understanding you in quite the same way you so desperately wanted to it to understand you.

And then something remarkable happens. The friends that held back, don’t anymore. They step up. They wrap their arms and protection around you in this, your most dire moment, and they remind you that family does not just mean parents and siblings. They make you laugh, only a little at first and then gradually more every day. They grab your hand as you walk into the bar you all knows he’s at and force you to hold your head high. They inspire you to be strong again. They remind you that this is all temporary and that you are the lucky one because you get to go home. And that’s when you realize they’re right. Because before long, you’re packing your bags and leaving your heartbreak abroad. You don’t have to be haunted by the nights you spent at the bar with him feeling like his long-term girlfriend. You don’t have to walk by his house every day and wonder if he’s lying in bed with another girl. You get to go home.

You will carry the scars from that ‘foreign heartbreak’ for the rest of your life. You arrived in that new country optimistic and hopeful but painfully naive and that naivety will never come back to you. But in its place, lies strength; there’s a calm and collected understanding that if you can survive this pain a thousand miles from home, surrounded by unfamiliarity, then you can do anything. You have seen the worst side of human nature – the games, the confusion, the hurt – but you have also seen the best side; the support and resilience of true friends is a force to be reckoned with and these people have earnt their stripes in your life.

So, my little bird, fly strong. I am sorry he did that to you, I am sorry he tainted those memories in that country on the trip that was supposed to be so wonderful. But I do not pity you. Because I know you are going to grow and become the best version of yourself as a result of this. I hand on heart believe there is now nothing you can’t do, nothing that can shake you in quite the same way and that is true power. And from one survivor to another — you got this.

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