Today there are a lot of possibilities to go abroad and many of us are facing a moment when they’re thinking about trying it. Study exchange programs are popular among young, and at work many are secretly eyeing on short-period work offers abroad.
I want to help you make your decision by sharing 10 things I’ve learned all those five times I’ve lived abroad, and even more, from those four times I’ve come back home.
1. It’s better somewhere else, we think before we live somewhere else.
Many of us dream of the sun and the sandy beaches, if only life would always be like that. Well, if someone has found a way to live their everyday like they were on a holiday, then congratulations! As for the majority of us, the challenges of everyday life come across also abroad. In the end, moving abroad might not make your life better. So why do I still think that you should go? Read on and I’ll give you more substantial reasons.
2. It’s not better or worse, but different.
I’ve been asked all the time: So do you like more Spain or Finland? I always get annoyed by this question, because it cannot be answered. No place is better than the other, they’re just different. It’s more about where I feel the way I want to feel.
Every place has its pros and cons. While in Spain I can enjoy the sun almost throughout the year, in Finland I can go to sauna, or play in the snow. You can’t really compare these things, because they’re both really nice. What I’ve learned is, that there is no perfect place. The happiness comes from inside you and you can plant the happiness inside of you anywhere you decide to. What you can choose are the elements in the environment that allow you to be who you are or support your preferences more than another.
What I actually did before moving here, I wrote down a list of things that honestly make me happy always. So, among other things, I wrote down the sun and the warmth. I realised that I really want my living-environment to have this element that makes me so happy, so I chose Spain. I still don’t think it’s better that Finland, but it just has more sunny days and that is important for me.
3. Living abroad you learn to know yourself better.
Looking at and listening to people abroad with an open mind firstly let’s you become aware of how you’ve been taught to live and think (These are your behaviour models). Second, it makes you compare these different habits to yours.
Having a comparison to the new environment forces you to question your behavior models. It’s not pleasant, actually it can even be quite horrible. You see these people living completely happy while doing things exactly opposite than what you were taught to do or behave like. This confrontation of your familiar way of living and thinking with the behaviour and thinking that you find in a foreign country, also called as the “cultural clash”, awakens you and helps you to understand who you are and why.
4. ..and makes you grow up.
Living abroad is not always easy. Abroad you face challenges unexpected, but you also find amazing abilities to survive the weirdest situations. Overcoming the hardships abroad by yourself increase your self-confidence and trust in the ability to take care of yourself.
5. New environment allows a change in you.
The fear of realising a need for change is one of the reasons people don’t want to try new things in life. It’s scary, because it forces you to look at yourself honestly and makes you change. Change is only possible if you give up of something old. It might be a person, a living environment, or work.
Here is the trap many of the people moving abroad step into. Moving abroad is not an answer to all your problems. Make sure you’re doing it for yourself, and not to “show others”. When a person is under a lot of mental stress or unbalance, it’s not advisable to move abroad. This is because changing environment puts you under a lot of stress, and stress might trigger disorders physically or mentally.
Change is more easy abroad, because you are forced to wake up. But if does not in any way mean that only changing your environment changes your life. Moving abroad contributes to YOU changing from inside, because if a new environment your brain is more receptive to accept new behaviour models. This means, that one should never move abroad to get away from his or her issues. If you don’t change anything in you, your life will not change either.
6. You learn and update your own values.
We all have different values. If your environment shares the values with you, you might find it easier to live in that environment, because you’re not in a conflict with it all the time.
7. You start appreciating all the good things at home.
There are so many good things in our home that in our everyday life we don’t notice. It gets tangled up with what happens everyday and you can’t separate these good things anymore. That’s why you forget to appreciate them. Like they say, you only know how important something is to you when you lose it. (Well normally it’s him or her, but works in this case as well.)
Moving back home from abroad is actually the greatest lesson. Realising how grateful you are for what you have often happens after returning home.
For me, returning back to Finland, I’ve always been hyped about having fresh water from the tap, being able to sleep without the noise from the street or because of the pressing heat and humidity, having access to fresh berries from a forest near you, running in the fresh air in the nature right next to your house. Well, at least for a few weeks, before they become part of the everyday life again and you start taking them for granted. Losing what you had, and finding it again, feels like winning a lottery!
8. You increase your awareness.
Somewhere else in the world, the life is different. For example, water is scarce, and while in Finland even toilets are flushed with clean water, somewhere else just getting the daily drinking water is a struggle. And vice versa, many ancient cultures teach us, that fighting so much for the things that drive the world in Western societies, such as money or fame, is actually quite silly.
Again, it doesn’t matter where you move, getting comparison to the life we’re accustomed to, gives us the needed experience to open our eyes for this. Although it’s unfair that not everyone has access to the same things, the least we should do is to become aware of this, be grateful for what we have, and try to learn from what others have what we don’t. (In Western countries we think that material is what you need, while spiritual properties are more important somewhere else.)
9. Increasing understanding, knowledge and awareness in the world.
We should all understand that there is no one right way to do things. Getting to know people from around the world is a true eye-opener and when you have an open mind and a positive attitude, you can learn so much.
If you find people that have experienced the same as you, moving abroad, they are so helpful, because they understand what you’re experiencing. It might sound tacky, but if you have felt the universal love, and the common language of caring across the geographical and cultural boundaries, you start to want good for others and learn to face new people open-minded, without judgement and treat others as individuals. And this is what we need more in the world. Not judgement, but understanding and helping each other.
The word is crazy and depressing, because there is so much powers that only care about winning and being the best. This battle has awful consequences. We don’t need this battle, but understanding. We can only do so much to resist these powers, but I believe that with understanding and knowledge are the key factors in fighting against these powers, who can only stay in power if they find unaware people to follow them.
10. You will never know unless you try
From my own experience I can say, that I have left many times, and I’ve never regretted. The only thing I’ve ever regretted is why I thought about it too long and that I didn’t leave earlier. But then again, everything happens when it’s the right time for it, so you don’t need to force yourself to take any decisions, that you don’t feel ready yet. When it’s time, you will know.
Why should you wait all your life to do something you’ve dreamed about? Our time on earth is limited, so don’t let your life pass by before trying. You can always go back!
So EVERYONE should move abroad?
Well, the title is a bit provocative for a purpose, but hopefully the point comes across. Not everyone have to move abroad, but I have really found doing it very enriching for the reasons mentioned above, so I hope the ones of you who are still in doubt, can get encouragement from this.
If you dream about moving abroad, try it! On my behalf I recommend it and don’t want it to end.