Living abroad can be both exhilarating and exhausting, and those who work or study in international schools often find themselves facing a continuous cycle of change and loss. In August there is a flurry of new faces, some incredibly excitable, some massively overwhelmed and others whose sadness from their loss of home drips from them like water, pooling around their feet. Students and staff wonder who are their people – who amongst these newbies will be their friends this year? Maybe they even signed up to be buddies keen to replace the friends they lost last year and are striving for connection.
Then just as the term starts to settle talk begins of contract renewals – who is up for renewal this year? Whispers about who is leaving and about who should probably leave as they clearly hate it but yet are still there year after year, hanging on for the cash while making themselves and all around them miserable…
By early term two, bang in the midst of newbie homesickness, the rumours start flying about who is going and where. We learn that that one family who has kept us sane for the past few years is moving to Europe to be closer to family or the colleague that keeps the department together is heading ‘off to new adventures and we wonder how we will cope without them.
The constant pinging of Whatsapp group expat sales groups between April and June provide the soundtrack to remind you that people are moving on. As the leavers panic about selling everything, the sadness sets in for those left behind.
The stayers start to try and make new friends with other stayers while their houses get fuller with reminders that the only constant in this life is change. The blender from the science teacher, a random assortment of cups to give to your new buddy, some awful picture that your friend clearly bought while drunk in Bali; houses haunted by the appliances of expats past.
And after the goodbye parties and half-hearted promises to always keep in touch you move onto the summer holidays before the rollercoaster starts again.
It may get to the point where you give up trying to make friends. That the loss of losing so many people you care about makes you reluctant to try again. It’s understandable, yet we all need connection – old hands and newbies alike. Unresolved loss can lead to us feeling depressed and thinking it is better if we just don’t even try anymore.
If this is you, please reach out for some support.