A few weeks ago, I invited four colleagues and friends of mine to lunch. These four women, who were originally from Russia, India, Philippines, and UK, have been living and working in the US for many years. The reason for my invitation was two-fold… first, I’m all about community. I’m always looking for reasons and opportunities to bring people together to connect, share and learn from one another. It’s just something I LOVE to do, and I have a strong belief that it’s a basic human need… feeling part of a community.
The other reason I brought us together was to do a little bit of research. I’ve known these women for years, and I realized, I haven’t come to understand very much about what brought them to the US in the first place. I was curious to learn more about their stories.
Among a lot of great insights gained (ideas for future newsletters!), one theme that especially spoke to me as they shared their early challenges, was their initial sense of isolation. When they left their countries of birth (some by choice, others out of necessity), they left behind their families and support systems. The communities they’d grown up in, schooled in, and worked in were no longer part of their daily interactions, and so much about life here was unfamiliar. It was before the huge popularity of social media, so staying in touch with those back home was much more challenging.
Bottom line… they were homesick.
Of course, now it’s much easier to connect with people all over the world. At any moment, I can go online and see what my relatives from Hungary are up to, and we can share pictures and birthday wishes with ease, instantaneously. That’s such a gift to have that type of access these days.
But for those who have moved here from another country to work and live, you can still feel cut off from a local community where you feel totally comfortable, welcome, and free to be yourself. You may not even realize that it’s community that’s missing. As you work through the various challenges and emotions of adjusting, finding a group of like-minded people with similar goals and support needs might not be at the top of your to-do list.
Community can take many forms and serve multiple purposes. Neighborhoods, professional organizations, cultural clubs, networking groups, hobby-focused clubs, sports leagues, arts & entertainment clubs, and so many more. Any one of these can provide resources, career opportunities, friendships, exploration buddies, motivation and accountability, learning, and fun!
If you’ve come to the US from another country and have noticed something’s missing, try finding a community or two to connect with. Here are some ways in which we benefit from being part of a community, and some options to explore!
Communities for Shared Learning/Knowledge
- Personal and professional networking
- Others have “been there”; made the mistakes and can help you avoid them
- Resources for language assistance, doctors, lawyers, best places to shop, etc.
- An opportunity for you to share and give back too
Communities for Fun
- Exploration and sight seeing
- Fitness and exercise
- Activities for kids
- Try things as a group that you might not try on your own
Communities for a Sense of Belonging
- Connect with those that have a similar background and history
- Share common foods and celebrations
- Like-minded people that know what you’re going through
- Being fully understood in your own language
Communities for Motivation, Inspiration and Accountability
- Develop a new skill or hobby
- Find a mentor; a model of what to strive for
- Find an accountability partner to help reach your goals
- Motivation to evolve and adapt personally or professionally
Here are some different communities to check out!
- Crack the Code and Succeed in Corporate USA – My group for foreign-born professionals!
- Internations – Online and local activity-based communities for Expats all over the world
- Language & Culture Meetups – Local groups from every part of the world
- Meetup.com – Groups for ANY type of personal or professional interest
- Toastmasters – Speaking and leadership development with local clubs
- Project Management Institute – International professional organization with local chapters
- International Institute of Business Analysis – International professional organization with local chapters
- Create your own!
What community will you join? It may be just the thing you didn’t realize you need!