Taking the step to go abroad for a long time not only comes with a new environment, people and cultures, but also with a lot of personal growth. I would even say that through my studies abroad I feel like another person. The experience enabled me to go beyond the known. And I can say that this was the best time I have had so far! My way of thinking and attitude has changed and I believe that a year abroad might have similar effects on you. To help you understand what I am talking about, here are five reasons why time abroad can change your life:
You Get out of Your Comfort Zone
I had never moved houses before and had been surrounded by more less the same people since primary school. I wanted to change this and was willing to discover new things and meet new people. My decision to go abroad forced me to get out of my comfort zone – the country being completely unfamiliar just like the people. Now I am aware that life also exists outside the bubble I was in. All I had to do was take the first step. I don’t fear change anymore since doing that. On the contrary: I see it as a chance to enrich my life positively with new people and to gain experience.
You Will Be Independent
My stay abroad was the first time I had been away from my family. I would say that before my exchange semester I was anything but independent as my parents were arranging everything for me. However, in a foreign country far away from my hometown, I had to look for a flat myself, I learned that the fridge doesn’t fill itself and that the laundry doesn’t do itself either. At first, it was a big change. But, after a short time, it became quite normal for me to cope with everyday life without the help of mum or dad. I have the feeling that my stay abroad has made me more self-sufficient. After my return home, one of the first things I did was the search for an apartment of my own. And I love it! Time has shown that I can do everything on my own if I want to.
You Learn Another Language
At school, I was one of the people that hated reading out loud in English class because I was so worried about my pronunciation. Even on holiday, I was very hesitant about speaking another language whether English or French – I always let my friends order for me in the restaurant. Abroad, however, I was confronted with another language all day long because there were no Germans in my new environment. And look at what happened! After only a few weeks conversations became easier and easier for me. Even if I didn’t know a word or didn’t pronounce it properly, I didn’t think about it anymore. Today I don’t have to think when I speak English. I also try to use the other languages I’ve been studying for years at every opportunity. It would be a shame to unlearn them!
You Will Be Open to Foreign Cultures
Different countries, different customs: during your time abroad you will notice that there are other cultures besides yours. I met people from all over the world. Our flat was an international group and everyone was influenced by the culture of their country of origin. I learned an incredible amount about different customs regarding food, drinks, clothing, education, and religion in other countries. For example, I had to learn that not all cultures and countries gave punctuality top priority. Therefore, I became more patient. I left my host country with a new, more open way of thinking and it became clear to me not to judge a book by its cover.
You Realize You Can Feel Homesick for More Than One Place
When I think back to my time abroad, I become nostalgic. I remember the smell of my favorite Indian restaurant, the coffee around the corner where I knew the barista and my favorite bar where my friends and I would dance until dawn. I knew every corner of the city. I learned to love it and soon felt like a local. Before my year abroad, I never imagined in my life that I could feel home somewhere else. Now I know that one can also feel homesick for several places and feel like coming home on your return.
You see, there are many reasons for spending a long time abroad. It doesn’t matter whether you want to spend a language year, a semester abroad, or do an internship in another country, you will certainly not regret it and return as a different person.
Verena Hellinger – StudentJob Partnerblog