Author: Jovana Vukcevic
This story starts in Podgorica, a little city in a little Balkan’s country, Montenegro, where I was born, and where I’ve spend most of my life. Family and friends, as well as job and studies, were sufficient reasons to stay there, although my achievements were showing that I could still do a lot more. I was encouraged by the fact that developing or so-called “Third-World” countries need every single young successful human in order to achieve their integration in the European society and thus, become an important part of it. So I still don’t really understand what encouraged me to accept the scholarship, leave everything and start a new life far away from home.
However, this experience showed me that you can both love your country and contribute to its development by travelling, meeting new cultures and getting significant experience, later to be transferred to your family, neighbourhood, school, city and state. This experience showed me that only after you’ve seen and became familiarized with a new way of living, studying and thinking, you can be able to appreciate what you have at home, and on the other hand to criticize and spot the weak points. All those things could be achieved only by comparing, seeing good-quality universities, companies and cities, as well as the environments where everything is not really so good and, at the same time, always thinking about how to improve yourself, which is the first step to upgrade and liberalise your own country.
Another excuse young people often use in order to justify their unpreparedness to experience different places, meet different people and learn different things, is the fact that leaving the country means leaving everything you’ve been building for years. It means that no one washes your laundry, no one helps you solving maths problems, there’s no lunch waiting on the table every day when you come back from school – you see the point – abroad, you’re all by your own. You’re going to face, most of us for the first time, life, in its pure shape, life which is often quite complicated, life which doesn’t show much comprehension for your spoiled behaviour, laziness or recklessness. If you don’t take care of yourself (here you have a large spectre of things – starting with your health, accommodation, finances, administration difficulties to the issues concerning choosing electricity supplier or even a laundry detergent brand), no one else will. So, it’s true, you’re about to face one of the biggest challenges in your life – and, yes, it’s not going to be always easy. But compared to what you’re about to discover, about yourself as well as about the others, few obstacles that you’ll successfully overcome are a small price to pay.
In this problem-solving game, you’ll realize how much you have progressed, how great things can be achieved in just a few months and how different people and different cultures can change you and make you think about the same things in a completely different way. The ability to accept other culture, religion or state of mind is what makes your own identity stronger and even though you discover new things about yourself, deep in your heart you’ll stay who you have always been. Your new friends will not erase the old ones, but they’ll complement it in the way that makes you all feel better. If you’re anxious about your academic excellence, language difficulties and possible consequences on your studies – stop worrying about that! The time abroad can and probably will be more formative than the formal education.
You’ll realize that not any movie can explain the holiness of the Athena’s Acropolis, the greatness of Egypt’s pyramids, the sadness of the Berlin’s wall, the elegance of the Taj Mahal, the romance of the Eiffel Tower, that no book can interpret the conversation with a Venice gondolier, New York’s taxi driver, Monte Carlo’s casino croupier, or Japanese geisha. You have to find it out yourself.
Someone once said: “At the beginning, we travel to lose ourselves; and then, we travel to find ourselves.” So be prepared for the thing that your new experience will turn you upside down and make everything you took for granted stand on its head. No stereotype could ever explain to you why your Mexican friend will come to the appointment one hour late, not even considering that as a problem, while your Japanese roommate will find egocentric and rebellious what you think is being “fashionable 5 minutes late”. Or it may be completely opposite, you’ll never know if you don’t try!
The only one thing you should do is to be open to new challenges and, more importantly, not to be afraid of them! Because the fear of the unknown and unwillingness to accept the risk of living abroad will make no good to you. Only when you’re ready to face the incertitude and beat it showing that you’re old and strong enough to organise your life on your own, only then you’ll see where’s your personal limit, if it exists at all or if only the sky is a limit for you!
This is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writing Contest. The content of the articles does not necessarily represent the view or the position of Mladiinfo.