Living abroad is one of my most instructive experiences because it forced me to question my everyday life.
I have lived abroad twice, first in Washington DC where I studied communications and business. I also did my first internship. Then in lived in Brussels where I worked as an au-pair and participated in long distance studies to Sweden.
Living abroad was one of my most educational experiences because it forced me to question my everyday life. Each country has its own system, opportunities and culture (and much more) which makes it, in my opinion, almost impossible to bring my everyday life with me when I live in a different country. It is worth it to experience because it force you to question what’s important in your life.
- You challenge yourself to get to know new people
For most people, a new country means that you do not have any friends or family nearby. In the absence of secure relationships, you will start looking for new ones. This obviously leads to lots of new relationships in your life and it teaches you a lot.
- You will have to spend time by yourself – you do not know anyone at first
Many people feel a little afraid to be alone, maybe you have never tried to eat alone, go out to the pub alone or go to an event by yourself. When you do not know someone, you will initially have to test these things out. It’s not as scary as you would think, and can be very liberating when you realize it’s all right.
- Food – two choices; old dishes with new tastes or new recipes with new ingredients
I’m am by no means the best chef in the world but I’ll tell you spaghetti and meat sauce will taste different, even if you use the same ingredients when you cook it in Belgium versus Sweden. The tomatoes have more flavor and a different composition. This made med try a whole lote of new dishes and ingredients because I had to adjust my cooking to new ingredients.
- You turn off all your ”must-have” subscriptions.
Without bills and other things that bind you to monthly expenses, you become freer to do other things. If you have a TV, it allows you to stay home while the lack of TV might force you to go out and find something to do. The lack of ”musts” or ”home habits” makes life freer and encourages you to try new things again.
- New environment = New habits & new routines
You will get new routines and develop new habits because you are in a different environment. It may be small things, like eating half a grapefruit for breakfast for 6 months, or something bigger like volunteering every week with children who used to be homeless. A new environment makes you try new things that you may like and makes you feel good.
- Freshness of the brain forced to try again
You will be exposing your brain to new things and this will cause you to break out of your old patterns. I will write more about the brain in the future because I think it’s incredibly fascinating. In short; you will get exposed to lots of new experiences when you live abroad that can change your impressions of things, whether in relationships, work or your self-knowledge. This will get your brain rewired.
- New cultures, new ways to do things
In the United States, it is much more common to go to church on Sundays than it is in Sweden. I actually went once, and even though I am not a believer, it was a very educational experience. The ”church” was in a cinema and they sang gospel, it was a bit like going to a concert, and suddenly I did not think it was so strange to go to church on Sunday. Be sure to try everything you have the opportunity to try, it will give you such amazing experiences.
- You appreciate what you have more because they are no longer obvious.
When mom and dad are not around the corner, and the best buddy cannot come over anytime, you realize how much you love them. Kalle’s caviar suddenly becomes a delicacy not to mention Swedish meatballs. Visit Ikea sometime when you are abroad and you will understand.
So to anyone who is thinking about costs etc, in the choice of living abroad, focus on getting invaluable experiences. The experiences are priceless.
oh crap … now I’m want to move abroad again.