I experienced life abroad for the first time as an exchange student in the United States. Destiny took me to American University in Washington D.C.
And I fell in love.
There is nothing like the feeling of experiencing life and adventure, in a strange place far away from home, for the first time. I can still remember the constant amazement felt during the first months, I had no idea what to expect, what to do or how, but I just let myself explore. And everything from there went uphill, kind of.
So far I’ve learned that living as an expat can be hard at moments, especially when you are adulting in a culture notably different from yours while learning the local language. But it is possible, and with the correct mindset and attitude, you can only end up winning.
There are so many reasons why life abroad is one of the best experiences life on this planet can offer. And although it means affecting some relationships, leaving your loved ones behind, befriending loneliness, and accepting uncertainty, here are five reasons why I think life abroad is worth all sacrifices:
It pulls you more often out of your comfort zone
You have no other option.
Choosing comfort and safety are natural tendencies, we are programmed to seek for it and there is nothing wrong about it. But the problem is when you trap yourself deeply enough to hold yourself back from achieving great things.
While living in a foreign country you are exposed to the local culture and usually its language too. You constantly face experiences and challenges you’ve never had before, and by noticing how you react and behave in new and non-familiar situations, you get to know about yourself and what you stand for better. It changes you for good, allowing you to be able to connect with great people and go to places you never thought you’d be.
In my case, leaving that zone meant trying to be more of a Yes person. I saw the need of going to social events alone, meeting with strangers for a drink, initiating conversations with random people, and what not, anything to make friends, create contacts and lead a life I wanted in my new home. As a result, not only did I expand my range of opportunities across borders but also built relationships that survive thousands of kilometers of distance.
It makes you more creative
Our brains work in a wonderful way. When they detect any change of environment they turn from “automatic mode” into being completely aware of everything that’s happening. We enter into a childlike state of mind, we increase our curiosity to what’s around us, and we focus on details that might help us adjust to what we discover.
Being abroad allows one to be constantly in this state of mind. Interacting with other cultures in a foreign country for a longer period of time simply expels us from our cultural bubbles. And by facing the need for multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation, our brains are forced to think outside the box and develop creative skills for problem-solving.
Constant variation, alteration of routines and embracement of new activities are food for creativity. Great writers, thinkers, and artists have drawn inspiration to create great masterworks from living abroad.
Living abroad takes an active role in the art of leading a creative life.
You learn to control your finances
If you have a small budget and are one of those who likes to travel, go for a nice night out or buy some clothes (you know, because of the need of covering your body), then you know how important it can be to regularly save money. As an Aupair whose monthly budget can barely cover the one-third cost of a new iPhone 7, I know that struggle.
It is usually hard to control finances where the currency is different. If you don’t do convert correctly, the money will disappear much faster. Sure, the excitement of being abroad is understandable, you want to travel to cute towns around the city, meet new people, try new cafés, and eat at interesting food spots. But if you do that very often, then money won’t last to the second half of the month!
And it’s very annoying.
Being abroad and economically independent makes you understand the true value of money and teaches you to prioritize your expenses and cut unnecessary costs in order to be able to truly enjoy great experiences that require a bit more of investment.
That’s adult life, after all.
You develop a bigger, different, and inspiring view of the world… and a better attitude
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
Life abroad is not only food for the soul, but an attitude builder. I talked a bit about this in my first post. I mentioned how living in other countries and actually taking the time and effort to learn about the culture and interact with it makes your perspectives change completely. You learn about the meaning and differences between cultural appreciation and appropriation, and how important it is to enjoy others cultures while being respectful. And if you let yourself be amazed more than be shocked, then you’ll feel less the need to complain whenever people don’t react as you’d expect.
Going abroad helps you understand and experience how historical backgrounds have shaped each country’s attitudes, beliefs, and traditions. You develop a greater tolerance towards other cultures, learn to accept life’s diversity and recognize its beauty. You get inspired more often, as you regularly discover something new and also
And because you learn all this, you live your life with more passion, your goals have a better purpose and you open yourself to a greater range of mind-broadening experiences that can only make you grow in many ways.
And that is just the right way of living.
It builds up your character and makes you stronger
There will be moments in which you will want to cry and want to pack your things and go back home. But surviving things like solitude, dealing with local authorities, new employers, and complicated bureaucracy will make you tougher.
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