10 Lessons That Living Abroad Taught Me

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1. How to be okay with being alone

Traveling alone used to scare the heck out of me and I never really understood people who swore by it. But there is a beautiful side to it that now I understand more. When you are by yourself, you are more observant. You pay more attention to details, to sounds, to feelings. You are more receptive and more open to the outside world. You have more time to sit in quiet and watch things happen around you. When I was in California my favorite activity was to sit by the beach with some coffee, watch the sun rise and observe my environment while planning my day.

2. How to make the first step to meet new people and even develop friendships

When you travel in groups, you don’t necessarily feel the need to develop new friendships. But when you are alone somewhere new and you spent enough time paying attention to yourself, when you are done organizing your new apartment, and finished all your TV shows, you will feel the need to belong somewhere. Being away from home taught me how to reach out to others or when they reach out to me, how to be more open to go and spend time with them. Go out and meet new people! Don’t be afraid to make the first step. You don’t need to develop ever-lasting friendships the first night but who knows? You might find yourself some great friends. You have nothing to lose.

3. How to adjust to life situations and how to have fun no matter what

At age 26 I decided to go back to school and get a master’s degree. I moved from Arizona to Wisconsin. Different weather, different people, from small city to big city, the only thing that was the same was the language. After living in a two bedroom apartment with my own kitchen and laundry room in AZ, I moved to a single dorm room. I had a hard time adjusting to cafeteria food again and realizing that I got to live in that tiny “hole” for two entire years. But after a little bit of self-pity I realized that I can turn things around by making that place cozier and making healthier food choices in the cafeteria. So I rearranged the furniture and I decorated the room as well as I could. It turned out to be amazing. I created a “home” for myself out of a plain, cold college dorm room and I loved going back there.

Living Abroad Taught Me

4. How to accept, understand and respect others with different cultural backgrounds

Growing up I was mostly around Hungarians and the only thing that could come up as a difference to cause stress is how others layer their stacked potato dish. But after moving to the USA (especially living in a college environment) I run into lots of different people from all over the world with so many different backgrounds. I had to learn to cooperate with others without judging them or bothering their routine. I had to adjust a lot and had to realize that there are different ways to do the things that I am used to be doing. I picked up habits I have never had before and my friends picked up some of mine. We thought each other how to cook our favorite dish from back home, how to say some words in our language but most importantly in the process we thought each other how to accept others as we are.

5. Being homesick is worse than I expected

It is like a roller-coaster. I have awesome days and sometimes I have terribly hard ones. Being homesick can hurt like no other but I found ways to make it less painful. Luckily technology makes it a whole lot easier to keep in touch with my loved ones. I learned how to find time throughout the day to talk to my family and friends, and downloaded some phone apps that would make that easier for me (List about my favorite apps are coming up). I don’t know what would I have done 50 years ago. There are friendships that worth the effort and will last no matter what! I still have childhood friends back home that I talk to on a regular basis and I know they are not going anywhere. I am stuck with them for the rest of my life and I am so thankful for that♥

6. Time and budget management

Living abroad made me a better and stronger person in many ways. I learned how to manage my time between school, practice, homework, conditioning, talking to family and friends back home and still have some time to socialize here. I learned to schedule my days better, to be more effective and how to stop doing things that added no value to my life such as watching a gazillion TV dramas. It was not easy at the beginning. I realized how much help I actually received back home when things were getting out of control. I learned quickly that the only person I can rely on was myself.

Living Abroad Taught Me

7. How to ask for help and not be ashamed of it

I barely spoke the language when I came to the States so it was very hard for me to go up to anyone and explain what I needed help with. It was easier not to do it. Eventually I realized that I just have to get over the fear and reach out to people for help which turned out to be pretty rewarding. Everyone knew within 2 seconds that I was foreign and they were more patient and helpful. I also felt a whole lot better about myself because I stepped out of my comfort zone. I met new people, had nice conversations and I knew or at least had a better idea of what I was doing. Of course, I ran into jerks sometimes, but those people are the ones that I get to share funny stories about on Facebook or on the blog 😀

8. How to be okay with not being okay all the time. Being happy is a choice

Living in Wisconsin was not easy at the beginning. Just when I felt like Arizona was home I had to pack up again and move to another place, where I didn’t know anybody. But I chose to be happy, and I decided that I will enjoy my time. Of course there were some harder days, but that is normal. You don’t have to be 100% okay all the time and people understand that. It is all about the attitude, how you approach things during those crappy days. If you are nice and reach out for help on those tougher days, you will see that people will be more helpful to you. I could have been miserable for two years but I left thinking that I created one of my best memories ever in those two years and I had people to go to when I had a rough time. Wisconsin will always be close to my heart.

9. Things and people in my life are not permanent, don’t take anything/anyone for granted

This is good and bad at the same time. Change is hard and sometimes it can be heart breaking. I learned to never take anything for granted. I learned to appreciate what I have at the moment and love what was given to me. I wake up every morning, thanking that I am still here, healthy and thankful for all the wonderful people in my life. Living far away from home really opened my eyes, and made me appreciate the people that love me and the things that I have. Appreciate the family you have because you don’t know how much time you have left with them. Appreciate your friends who love you no matter what. Appreciate the car you have, it takes you from A to B. Never stop working hard to get better BUT in the process don’t forget to stop for a minute each day to appreciate how lucky you truly are.

Living Abroad Taught Me

10. How to stand up for myself

At the beginning I couldn’t always stand up for myself because I didn’t speak the language well enough. It was one of the most frustrating things I have ever experienced. But even if you are alone, feeling lost and think it is better to let people push you around so you at least keep those “friends”, you are wrong. Those people are not your friends and you should never let people take advantage of you. Even if you are alone, it is better that way and eventually you will find your own crowd, the people that appreciate you the most.

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. Loved this post! and I love your courage and sense of adventure. You make very very valid points about traveling alone – something that has been calling me lately. I moved from Atlanta to Miami alone in my 30’s – so I didn’t go to a different country, but the cultures were very different. When I got homesick, I made a point of doing and experiencing things I couldn’t do in Atlanta – like go to the beach! It make you really appreciate things. And – the dog is adorable!

    • Hi Vickie! 🙂 Thank you so much! Yes, traveling alone definitely has a magical power that I underestimated before. Doing something new or experiencing something different does help with homesickness! Takes your mind off of it for sure 🙂 I love to discover my surroundings just to get out of the crazy everydays. I feel lucky that way because there is so much to see in this area. I would love to visit Miami one day!

  2. what an awesome post, i have to say the title doesnt do the post justice, some real thinking points in there. Point 9 is a great one for so many reasons thank you for the brilliant read

  3. I really enjoyed reading about your experiences. I have lived in the same general area for most of my life. Now that my son is grown and out on his own, I would love to move to other states and maybe a new country. However, the very idea scares the heck out of me. I don’t embrace change as I should and I tend to be a creature of habit. I admire folks such as yourself who flex their adaptability muscles. Kudos to you blogging friend!

    • Thank you Julie 🙂 Yes, change is very scary, the more you have to leave behind the scarier it is. For me it was easier because I got out of high-school and didn’t have a house or a job. But maybe you should take it slow and just go and visit different areas and get a feel of what the area has to offer you. 🙂

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