Written by: Ana Alibegova
Edited by: Stefan Alijevikj
If a traveler attempts to make a retrospective of their so-far life experiences and crucial developments in their professional and personal growth, it is of no doubt that their first voyage abroad will have a seat on the pedestal. Every day spent abroad is a new challenge and a new learning opportunity that should be taken, reflected upon and applied. The list of life lessons from living abroad is unlimited; however, the following lines summarize just few of them:
1. You learn how to explore the things around you
Being a tourist and being part of the local community are two completely different travelling experiences. If you want to be perceived as a local, first you should do is to try to understand the local culture. Instead of visiting touristic spots, making thousands of photos from monuments and beautiful gothic buildings, try to sit in a café, order your favourite drink and observe the people around you. Avoid the typical spots of the Erasmus students in the town and attempt to discover places that locals prefer. You know you are more of a local than a tourist if there are at least 3 popular sightseeing attractions in the town that you still have not visited although you are there more than 10 months.
2. You master in making international friends
Certainly, the time we spend alone abroad impacts our criteria for friendships. The new friends you make whilst living abroad do not have many things in common with your childhood friends, however, they all bring something new and valuable in your life. Very often, you sort of a “lower” your expectations from the new people you meet, which comes as something logical, since the priority is to have a company. The quality of such company often goes out of the priorities’ list. To explain this better: your needs and wishes have changed, so it is not anymore that you expect to meet people similar to your friends in your home-country. Instead, you choose to spend more time with outgoing people, who can be a great company for traveling around, hitch-hiking, partying or Saturday shopping, and for the sake of truth, you sometimes meet people you will never have them befriended if the scene was set in your fatherland. Still, certain number of the instantly made friendships, proves to be firm and stable and live on after the end of your stay abroad. Then you also become welcomed in other countries, where your new/old friend will act as your host, will show you the city and will introduce you to their friends.
3. You learn how to enjoy while being alone
“Alone does not mean lonely” – this becomes your everyday mantra. You become an expert in wandering around the streets in the old town, you spend your weekends visiting randomly chosen places on the outskirts of the town, and very often you decide to take a bus, just travel to the last station and explore that part of the town. You learn how to get inspired by simple things, random conversation with some stranger in the underground, exchange of few thoughts about the political situation in the country with the supermarket teller, a smile by a playful child in a big city mall. But most of all, you learn to enjoy the time spend alone at home. Not only that finally you have all the time on Earth to read books, watch your favourite tv-shows, download new documentaries, but you also have endless moments to think about your life, what you really want, where you see yourself in future, do you make the right steps and decisions. And those moments are priceless and can’t be exchanged for nothing.
4. You find out how to indemnify your lack of physical presence with regular online communication
Before you choose to spend more time abroad, be ready that many people will not be happy with this decision of yours, mostly because they know this will significantly impact the relation between you two. Being faced with challenges in your everyday interactions, once you are kilometers away you figure out to whom of your friends the physical distance presents an obstacle, and for whom this is perceived as a challenge only. Be ready to have your list of great friends redefined (again, especially the ones from childhood) and be prepared to accept the fact that not rarely one friendship is based on habit, instead on firm belief, love and sharing. However, be also aware that some people are just not good in maintaining communication online. And yes, being able to keep in touch regularly should be numbered as a distinctive skill. In addition, the amount of time you spend on Facebook, Skype, Viber and G-talk increases significantly. You start to share more photos, stories and details from your life abroad, still, not every time the people around you can understand your passion about the new valuable things and new moments in your life. And that is perfectly fine.
5. You completely change your perception about distance, finances, and quality time
Travelling 400 km in one direction and the same distance back in less than 24 hours becomes something completely rational and easy to be done. Not to mention that you always manage to find your way, to reach some hidden castle, some beautiful scenery, good local restaurant even without speaking a word in the local language. You become a specialist in finding cheap flights, group discounts for train tickets, alternative transportation, car-pooling, and anything else that can help you cross hundreds of kilometers in a cheap and fast manner. Moreover, you become skilled in arriving last minute at airports, travelling without maps or surviving one month with only one backpack of baggage. And remember, everything always looks so nearer to you that it actually really is. The term ‘border’ just associates some technical term that is used to separate two territories, however never people and cultures. In addition, you become skilled to travel 10 days with less than 100 euros in the pocket, but also you learn to enjoy some small luxurious things, such as 5-euro cappuccino in the center of Paris, or 7-euro ice-cream along Arno River in Florence.
Last but not least, living abroad helps you grow as a person by giving you skills to create and recognize things that bring values and people that enrich your life. No matter how cliché it sounds, the world indeed becomes a small place to live in and you become trained to find good people everywhere. Foreigners, locals, from US to Asia and Australia and further, you start loving the human race and appreciating the diversity. By becoming more open-minded, you boost your skills to identify the issues in your home-country, but also to offer and recognize alternative solutions. Not only you do see the world with different eyes, but you also start to perceive yourself in a different manner.
You learn how to prioritize, and where to direct your energy. And namely that is the biggest quality: by discovering your being, to learn how to accept yourself and how to make yourself a better person.