I’m Kenyan, but being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) has always meant that people from all over the world have surrounded me. Therefore when I moved from Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa for my undergrad I had no problems settling down and fitting in. The problems began when it came time to leave Cape Town after I graduated. I remember moving back into my mother’s house in Nairobi and feeling excited about being back home. However within a few weeks I fell into a slight depression because I just didn’t fit in. I came home to a city I didn’t recognize and no friends due to the fact that my educational years were spent in international schools and everyone I knew was well, somwher else. It took some time but I finally got back on my feet and now, a year later, I finally feel like I’m home. Here are some of the things I found handy when I had to move to my ‘new’ environment.
1. Embrace the Place and Explore!
When I first got home I wasn’t exactly looking forward to leaving everyone and everything I knew. I had spent three years building a support system in Cape Town and I loved the life I had there. Also, now that I had graduated there was the pressure to find a job, which quite frankly is quite difficult to achieve when everyone wants at least a year of experience before they can even consider hiring you. Combine distaste for your environment with constant career rejection and things can spiral downwards rapidly. So I started driving around town, at first because I had the time on my hands but also because I needed to become familiar with my environment. With time I found new places to hang out and I met a few people.
2. Put Yourself Out There.
You’re not going to meet people and make friends or even career contacts if you aren’t approachable and you can end up isolating yourself. This happened to me and a few months later I found out that I was actually pushing people away because I came off as snobby and uptight; I am anything but.
Being approachable can open numerous doors for you and sometimes all it takes is a smile. Go to new places, speak to new people, and especially listen to new people. You never know, one of the random people you speak to at the supermarket may be the contact you need for that new job you can’t seem to lock down.
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3. Don’t Give Up
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall as long as you keep getting up. For me it took a while but I finally started meeting people, even people from my high school who it turns out were now back in Kenya after their own graduations. Most of these people I wasn’t friends with in high school because…it was high school, but now that we’re all grown up and we find that we have a lot more in common.
It was a difficult start but now I’m happy with where I am. I know if a few years wanderlust will get the best of me and I’ll probably move somewhere new but until then I couldn’t be happier.