Not to romanticize obstacles, but it’s harder to move abroad than it is to just go on vacation, and it is absolutely worth it. A new city becomes a piece of you.
A look at how your perspective changes from living the life of an expat:
1. You have to give something up.
Regardless, of your relations with your friends, family, and career, life at home won’t pause in the lack of your presence. If you’re studying abroad fall quarter, no football tailgates for you. If you’re working a less traditional job overseas, you might be putting your long-term career on hold. You may miss some birthday parties or holidays. I’d love to say that it will ALL be there when you come back (if you come back), but some of it might not be. Some friendships might dwindle. But for anything or anyone that you do lose, you’ll have gained that much more confidence, development, independence, friendships, memories, and adventure. Risks. Sacrifices. Some things are worth it.
2. Expat life includes commitments like school or work.
With exceptions, it’s unlikely that you’re going to reside in another country just living up Cabo spring break on replay. There’s this thing called “responsibility,” and it stalks us without borders. You’ll get a new routine going, and learn to work with people outside of your comfort zone. This non-conventional resume builder is real: your creative problem-solving strategies will increase.
3. You can truly explore the city if you’re actually living there.
You don’t have to select from the “top things to do in XYZ” anymore, because you can do them all. Take your time, and do it right! Furthermore, an iconic landmark might become a part of your daily jogging path. You might pick up some local recipes. Or perhaps you’ll indulge in the nightlife by becoming a “regular,” accessing locally exclusive entertainment. You will be around long enough to enjoy seasonal celebrations like festivals, holidays, and sporting events.
4. You’ll get to know locals and other expats.
Without a wolf-pack to cause mischief, you’ll be forced to meet new friends. Some will come through work or school, others through a chat at the pub or metro stop. When we’re home, we aren’t necessarily looking for new close friends. Abroad, you are naturally more open-minded because few friends are physically present in your life. An active willingness to meet others will turn into new relationships and connections.
5. You’ll learn to be alone.
Between finding somewhere to live, learning to navigate a new city, securing your routine, and getting a hang of life abroad, it may take some time to establish intimate friendships. Even with new pals, you may not have a car abroad, or schedules might be conflicting. Whatever it is, there will inevitably be more time that you spend alone. Embrace it. Those moments of solidarity will allow you to get to know yourself.
6. You’re going to be humbled by challenges, then feel awesome when you overcome them.
This happens both while traveling and living abroad. You get lost. You get homesick. You struggle with a foreign language (or even with just an accent… are we speaking the same English here, mate). You deal with foreign exchange rates. A simple task can be so much harder!
You would think that by living abroad you would master the lifestyle quickly, but it can take a surprising amount of time to establish a regimen. In other words, you’ll be making the same mistakes or dealing with the same sh*t over and over again. This can be frustrating and discouraging. A friendly reminder that you are not invincible, and that you will feel empowered by how much you ultimately accomplish!
7. You’re going to gain a better understanding of your own culture and others’ cultures, ultimately realizing that there’s a lot you don’t know about the world.
There’s a whole globe out there, and you won’t realize how much you do not know until you get out and see how other people live. You’ll register that some people just do things differently. Not only will you learn to be okay with that, but you’ll start to love these differences. If we were all the same, life would be boring anyways.
8. You’re going to value the people closest to you at home, and the complete strangers abroad who quickly become your best friends.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder. It takes so much effort to stay in contact with persons at home that those who can endure it prove that they really do care about you. Having few people in the new city, you’ll genuinely love those you meet for showing you their town, for taking you in their hearts, and for looking out for you. Being the outsider, you’ll rely on locals to aid your adjustment to the new city, and their selfless kinship will warm your heart. Turns out, you can’t rely on everyone, but someone will always be there for you.
9. It’s going to be fun-tastic.
Discovering places, connecting with people, and experiencing new activities… you’ll never get bored. No matter what degree of your metamorphosis you find yourself in, moving abroad is always a good time. Already being in another hemisphere, you’ll have easier access to more unknown destinations. You’ll also be freed from your society’s expectations. You’ll learn to be yourself once you don’t have your home community’s pressures dictating the life you “should” be living. Sometimes you have to remove yourself from your norm to emancipate your innermost desires. Moving abroad is such an immense experience that it cannot be measured by words. You have to try it yourself to understand it!
10. You are going to be the one with the hot accent.