Living abroad is definitely an eye-opening experience that I recommend everyone should try at least once.
Besides my native Finland, I have lived in Sweden, Denmark, Chile, and the US and although my experiences have been most of the time marvelous, I have had my moments when all I have wanted to do is to pack my bags and take the first flight back home.
That hasn’t happened yet, and here are my reasons for why an experience abroad is worth taking.
You have a chance to learn a new language
There are so many countries and so many languages to learn, so choosing a country based on the spoken language is a very legit reason. In my opinion, one can learn a language very well by studying, but nothing beats the feeling of using the language with locals, learning how to have a conversation, how to have a debate about a hot topic (the presidential election anno 2016 in the US for example), how to flirt, how to argue, how to tell jokes, well you get the point. Learning a language by speaking and using it makes the learning part so much more fun and vibrant. You can also feel the progress every day when you catch new words, find yourself saying more complex sentences or having serious discussions. When I moved to Chile, I thought that my Spanish was decent, but boy was I wrong. Studying journalism in Spanish was the best lesson I could ever have dreamed about.
You learn about a new culture
When living abroad you get exposed to habits and customs very different to your own. Things will be done differently than what you are used to, and it might annoy the shit out of you, but being able to adapt to new places and cultures will be a skill that you’ll have with you for the rest of your life and that will serve you both while traveling, when meeting people from around the world, and in your professional life. A new culture also introduces you to new music, food, films, festivities, history, and art, and voilà, you have doubled your knowledge and your mental library of things to see and do.
You take a huge leap outside your comfort zone
My most embarrassing moments were in a classroom filled with journalism students to whom I had to read my texts and articles week after week. In Spanish. The reading became less excruciating every week that went by and now I couldn’t be happier about those assignments. I think that taking a step outside the comfort zone is always a good thing and by moving abroad, you’ll be taking those steps every day; making new friends in a new city, finding your way around unknown territory, taking caring of bureaucracy and other everyday things in a foreign language, study and work in unfamiliar environments are all examples of steps that take you further from your comfort zone and closer to the magic.
You’ll have friends all over the world
The best part about living abroad must be, without a doubt, the fact that you make friends for a lifetime from around the world. And even if you moved back to your home country or to another place, those friendships will stay with you wherever you go.
Moving abroad is a big decision and often times a scary one, but the only thing you need to do to make it happen is to make the decision. After that everything usually falls into place. And if the decision itself feels scary, remember that you can always come back home.
Words: Lina Hagstrom