12 Reasons Why Living in Another Country Will Forever Change Your Life
I originally was going to name this blog, 12 Reasons Why Studying Abroad Will Forever Change Your Life, as I have been recently re-inspired by my little sister who just made the leap of faith to study and live abroad in Florence, Italy, all by herself. While I was in my Junior Year of College, I decided to study abroad in Siena, Italy, and the decision, for me, was nothing short of life changing. However, I decided to change the title of this blog post to living in another country, as I am currently living and working in Paris, France and admittedly, still learning, and most definitely strengthening and refining the same lessons that I learned when I first studied abroad in Italy.
It has been such an inspiration for me to watch my sister’s bravery, independence, and tenacity as she embarks on her first-solo journey of discovering not just the world, but also herself, and the highs and lows that accompanies such a journey that, I know now, will culminate in a truly life-changing and transformative experience.
Watching her is terrifyingly vulnerable as an older sister, as I have an innate sense of wanting to protect her, just as I do with all three of my other younger siblings, from anything short of extraordinary.
Perhaps equally as vulnerable, is the reflection of a stronger, yet equally stubborn, version of my younger self that I see in her, and having that same innate sense of wanting to protect her and not wanting her to experience anything short of extraordinary, either.
Discovering the world, learning who you are, and learning the ropes of well, life, is an extremely terrifying, yet thrilling adventure, that seems to be a microcosm of what living in another country alone feels like in a condensed amount of time.
Living, or studying abroad, in a foreign country is an experience that I have found, and continue to find, transformative and an experience that I wanted and still want for myself, for my loved ones, for my future kids, as well as for the world.
Here are my ten reasons why living abroad will change your life:
1.You Learn Independence-
Packing your bags, moving to a foreign country in which you don’t speak the language, and living in a culture that is different than your own will teach you independence like no other. It will teach you how to take care of yourself, teach you how to make decisions on your own, without the help of those who are closest to you, and will strengthen your instincts of survival in it’s purest sense.
When you are dropped off by a taxi at the wrong address in a foreign country and don’t know the language, or where you are at for that matter, you learn what it means to survive, think on your feet, and in turn, you discover your own strength and independence.
2. You Are Forced Out of Your Comfort Zone-
I should rephrase that and say, you are continually forced out of your comfort zone. You want to do a task as simple as sending post-cards to your loved ones and not only do you have to speak another language in order to do so, you have to know the proper vocabulary, and say it correctly, with “un bon accent Français.” You just want stamps, and it’s giving you slight anxiety at the feeling of trying to say the dreaded French “-re” sound that is next to impossible for native-Anglophones to say such in the word “timbres.” Are you sure that, “vous ne comprenez pas le mot, ‘stamps’?!“
3. You Discover That You Are Capable of Anything You Put Your Mind To-
Yes, you didn’t think you could move to another country, by yourself, but you did.
You didn’t think you could find directions in a city where you couldn’t even read, let alone, say the words. On top of that, your very smart, smart phone died, and you are just really, really bad with directions, and yet somehow, oddly enough, you found yourself and exactly where you meant to be going.
You didn’t think you could learn to speak another language, but look at you, now, speaking [fill in the blank], and giving directions to strangers who are native, in their language.
4. You Realize What Means the Most-
Who are the people in your life that mean the most? Who are the ones who love you the most? Move to a foreign country and it’s as clear as your connection on Skype is. Hah, that was a joke, in case you’ve never tried it. 😉
5. You Learn to Appreciate All That You Have-
Poverty is a real and living thing, people. Do you know there are kids living in Favelas in Rio de Janerio, that don’t have enough food to eat, nor do they have functioning roofs above their heads, and who live in the wake of drug-lords?
When you travel abroad, you see people who have 2% of what you grew up with, and they manage to be happy. Surely, if you didn’t or did before, you have SO much more appreciation now, for all that you have been blessed and fortunate to have.
6. You Realize That There Isn’t Just One Way of Living or Being-
Do you remember that time when your parents lectured you, telling you that if you leave eggs out on the counter they will go bad? Well guess what, mom and dad?! In Italy, they DON’T refrigerate their eggs. (You learned that after an hour of your time was spent searching for them in the grocery store…)
7. You Learn To Be Your Own Self-Advocate-
When you are dropped off by a taxi with your bags at the wrong address, you will have to call your study abroad program and say, “WHAT THE HECK?!” I’m only 19, alone, in a foreign country people!
8. You Discover the World-
HUH?! You mean to say that there are actually around 193 countries in the world?!
SAY WHAT?! You mean English is NOT the only language, and that there is roughly 6,500 different languages spoken around the world?
9. You Discover Yourself-
Being exposed to and living in a culture that is different than your own, allows you the insight of seeing you, as you, and not through the lens of the society that you live in or the people that you surround yourself with. The first time I lived abroad, studying abroad in Siena, Italy, also happened to be the first time where I didn’t have any societal or familial pressure of who I wanted to be. When you live abroad, you discover yourself, authentically.
10. You Learn to Put Yourself Out There- Chances are, you are not going to know a lot of people when you first go abroad. In fact, you may not know a single soul. And that is OK. While, sometimes, friends magically stumble in your life, at exactly the right timing; However, more often than not, you will learn that in order to have friends, you have to put yourself out there and pursue friends.
11. You Learn That All is Eventually “Va Bene”- While abroad, and it seems especially the case, in Italy, nothing goes according to plan. Flights get delayed, trains go on strike, a lot, and the plan that you spent several hours planning, almost never goes according to plan. However, you learn that all is going to turn out ok, and often better than you expected. “Tout es va bene.“
12. You Become Open to the World and it’s Infinite Possibilities-
Your mind, heart, and soul are completely, 100% open, and you are learning more than you have learned in the last 18 years of your life. You no longer have to live up to anyone’s, except for your own expectations, and you can live the life you have always imagined.
This openness, is exactly what has captured and transformed me into the person that I am today, and continues to inspire and capture me and leaves me with an unconquerable, “travel-bug disease,” and perhaps, will leave me, forever and happily, Helplessly Wanderlust.
Until next time,
Follow your own Helpless Wanderlust.
Bisous from a very cold and gray, Paris day.