Living in a different place for a significant amount of time will open your eyes and your heart. The lessons you learn abroad will be invaluable during your time away as well as when you return home. You will learn more about the world but at the same time, you will find a new appreciation for your home. The list that follows includes ten of the lessons that you can expect to encounter on your adventure abroad.
- How to ask for help
You may start out thinking that you are an independent world traveler who can conquer every obstacle, but you will soon realize that you need others’ help and support to navigate. This lesson is not just about asking for help with small things like directions but about admitting that you can’t do everything on your own. You will learn to ask for help when you truly need it. Instead of trying to tough it out all by yourself, you will learn to let people help you.
- The importance of a support system
It is good to keep in touch with your family and friends at home because they miss you and want to know what’s going on in your life, but don’t forget to build bonds with the people around you in your new country. Your new friends and/or host family that you see regularly will begin to feel familiar. These people will be able to provide more immediate support for you, and will probably have a better understanding of what you’re going through, than your far-away friends. You will learn that a good support system can help you get though almost any crisis, and there will inevitably be a crisis (or several).
- How to improvise
You won’t always be able to find that spice for that recipe from home or a place to celebrate your favorite obscure holiday. But just because every detail isn’t exactly how you imagined doesn’t mean you give up. You will start to let go of the small particulars and focus on making the experience count. You will learn that not every detail has to be perfect in order to make something great.
- How to enjoy things for what they are
Making comparisons is at times automatic and can help us to understand new experiences. However, when your first instinct is always to compare something new to something familiar, you are already thinking about that new thing out of its context. In order to truly enjoy something new, you must fight the urge to judge value based solely on comparisons. You will learn how to take pleasure in new things and experiences without preconceived bias or expectations.
First of all, stressing out over something you have no control over doesn’t help anything. You will learn that quickly. In your new country, you will inevitably be confused and even frustrated at the cultural differences. Because of this, you will learn to be patient with yourself while you learn a new culture and patient with those around you if (when) they act differently than you expect. You will learn that some problems can be solved by simply taking time to breath and put them into perspective.
- Tolerance and acceptance of others
You may not agree with or even understand the actions and opinions of everyone you meet. People are different and that’s part of what makes life so interesting. There will always be stereotypes to break, but being aware that you have them is the most important step to correcting them. You will learn to accept people for who they are even if you can’t completely understand them.
- How to adapt to a new culture while remaining true to yourself
While it is important to live by “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” (act like the locals and adapt your behavior to fit into the culture you are in), it is equally important to not lose yourself. It is essential to your integrity that in the midst of learning, growing, and adapting you remember your core beliefs and values. There is no one right way to find a balance. You will learn how to incorporate the old and the new in a way that feels right for you.
- How to live in the moment
You will learn to enjoy the present because you know that all good things must come to an end.
- The things that terrify you are the things most worth doing
You probably knew this before your trip; after all, you decided to leave everything familiar in order to experience a new culture and way of life. There will be times that you will rethink your decision; you will panic and wonder is it too late to turn back? Then, you will find the courage to continue and you will not be disappointed. After your trip, you will confirm your belief that momentary discomfort or fear is nothing in comparison to the reward of a new experience.
- There’s no place like home
During your travels you will learn to adapt and to accept the new. You might have so much success adapting that you will consider the new country to be your second home. Maybe you left home because you were bored, maybe you just wanted to experience a new country before settling down, or maybe you wanted to escape from something. However, no matter how exciting the rest of the world is, the place where you grew up, flaws and all, will always have a special spot in your heart; nothing will change that.
Your experience abroad will be completely unique to you and the things you’ve learned may not be immediately obvious. It’s entirely possible that once you arrive home, you will feel different but not know why. After a while, you will be able to point out what you have learned and how you have changed. No lesson, large or small, will be wasted.