We all love traveling. Exploring new places, meeting new people and getting drunk from new types of alcohol abroad. Usually it’s all squeezed into one or two weeks, which are amazing, intense and unforgettable. When we come back from our vacation we annoy our relatives with unbelievable, endless stories and we are always ready to show all the thousand pictures we made. We feel like we became experts on the culture in the given place and we dream about living there. But the truth is that, to travel somewhere for vacation and to actually live there, is a completely different experience. And guess what. It is much more amazing, intense and unforgettable. Luckily, for most of the students it is possible if not mandatory to experience living abroad through exchange. If it is not, you might want to hear why you should consider semester, internship or even the whole college abroad.
So far, it sounds like moving abroad and leaving everything behind you is a piece of cake. All you are going to do is hanging out with cool international people, and just having time of your life. Well, to be honest, the reality might slap you a bit in the beginning. You will experience plenty of lonely moments when you would rather pack your few suitcases and go back to the country where everything looks familiar and everyone speaks the same way as you. First days (or weeks) suck, that’s for sure. But if you are brave enough to overcome these shitty lonely days, then you will experience the beauty of living out of your comfort zone. And now let us tell you, why you would want to be out of your comfort zone.
1. Because now it is the perfect time
You will never be this young and this free again. People tend to postpone traveling to when they will have more time, more money, more whatever. But that’s a bullshit. There has never been a better time than now, when your responsibilities are almost none.
2. You will learn a lot about yourself
This might be the first time you will live truly independently. If something gets screwed up, your parents are too far to fix it for you and so you finally have to take care of it yourself. You need to make your own decisions about almost everything and that can be overwhelming at the beginning. But after a while you might be surprised to realize how great it is to be independent and how you actually enjoy living your life the way you want. Because with a lot of responsibility there is also a lot of freedom, and vice versa.
3. You will get a whole new mindset
You are maybe coming from an environment where everything has been the way it is for a long time already and no one would ever admit that it could also work some other way. When you get into an international environment, you will encounter many different opinions and perspectives on what is funny, what is pretty, what is right and what is wrong. If you wanna survive in the multicultural community and perhaps make some friends, you will learn that the way of doing things in other cultures is not weird. It’s just different. And it is well known fact, that the most innovative ideas are born on the edge of conflicting points of view.
4. You will truly get to know the country
And not just the beautiful places which you would visit as a tourist but also ugly, dirty or even dangerous spots, which show the culture in all its shadows. Moreover, if you don’t get stuck in your international community, you will get to know the local people, their habits, their way of thinking and their language. You will most probably go through a couple of phases : First, the honeymoon phase where everything is new and interesting. Second, the frustration phase where you feel homesick and what was interesting before becomes confusing and annoying. Third one is understanding phase, in which you acclimatize and become familiar with local habits. Last comes the adaptation phase when you accept and embrace the new environment and finally feel like you start to fit in, while you are still aware of your own background.
5. You’ll make a lot of friends from all over the world
And this is by far the best part. The first encounters with your new flatmates or classmates might be quite awkward and uncomfortable. Especially if you all need to speak the language that’s not native to you, it’s really challenging to find the common ground and to understand each other’s humor. But you are forced to hang out with these people anyway, because well, there is no one else. And after a while, you find out, that you are more similar and closer to this half Japanese- half Danish girl from France than you’ve ever been to anyone else in your country. Because she is going through the exactly same experience as you do. She can understand how do you feel and how did you change way better than your friends back home.
At some point, you will start feeling like your new friends became as close and important as a family to you. You changed and grew together, experienced new things and sort of, adopted each other. Ironically, this is usually the point, when it is time to go home. And you are not really sure if your ‘old home’ will feel the same. You realized that home is not so much about the place as about people who surround you.
The hardest part of living abroad is at the end, returning back home. No one can really understand what you went through and how much it influenced you. Thus, you can find yourself more lonely in your hometown than you ever felt abroad. And you might be tempted to leave again. Otherwise, it will just pass and this experience becomes one beautiful, unforgettable memory that changed you immensely.