When I decided to move abroad over two years ago, it was a very spontaneous decision. I had just graduated from college, had no real purpose or direction, and had this inexplicable anxiety over my future that I’m sure many 20-somethings feel. I think that being in your early 20’s is possibly the best and worst part of your life. The world feels full of potential but at the same time real responsibilities are rearing their heads and there is so much pressure all the time to figure things out.
To get that job, regardless if it’s something you are passionate about.
To have everything in a perfect, compartmentalized little box.
When I made the decision to move to Thailand, it was spontaneous and reckless and possibly could have been the stupidest decision I could have ever made. But it wasn’t. After backpacking around Asia for 2 months, I realized my money was running low, and I would need to find an actual job. I completed my TEFL in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the rest is history. I taught first grade for a year, and have since moved to Seoul.
How Living Abroad Changes You
Along the way, I have found that living abroad is one of the most challenging and yet satisfying things a person can do. Living in a different country can be frustrating and tiring, but it can also open up so many aspects of life that you may never have thought were possible. There are a couple of things that I have experienced after living abroad, that I think many expats feel as well.
You Become A Thrill-Seeker
Although I never thought of myself as an adrenaline junkie, I find myself constantly looking for that feeling of being in a new city. The sights, the smells, the feeling of not really knowing anything becomes almost intoxicating. Entering a new city and figuring out how to live and how to make things work is challenging, but it’s definitely a thrill.
One Language Is Not Enough
After living abroad, sometimes you will be trying to find a word for something and realize you can only express what you are trying to say in a different language. It is quite a strange feeling.
You Realize That Courage Is Important, But It’s Not Everything
Yes, people say how brave it is to move abroad. But it’s so much more than that. I don’t consider myself a particularly brave person, but I do consider myself a determined one. There is a difference between being brave and just really, really wanting something.
You Learn How To Say Goodbye
Whether it comes to moving to your next location, or losing friends in your current country, being an expat comes with the simple fact that there will be a lot of goodbyes. Just because relationships are temporary doesn’t make them any less meaningful.
You Learn Patience
I’m not a very patient person, and it is something I still work on, but living in a foreign country takes a lot of patience. Whether it’s trying to figure out directions, or trying to explain to someone something with a language barrier, it takes a lot of patience. Sometimes the simplest tasks can be the biggest challenges while living abroad, but you will grow to accept them.
You Will Learn To Talk To Strangers
Whether its pure loneliness or the feeling of invincibility while living somewhere else, meeting people becomes that much easier. The thought of eating by yourself at a restaurant and talking to strangers on the bus will become that much less intimidating. A smile and a little humility will get you far.
Going Home Will Never Be The Same
Going home for a visit is bittersweet, and wonderful, but it is also such an eye-opener. While you were off gallivanting around the world, things at home have remained the same. Life still continued on as normal for the people at home, and though obvious, this can sometimes feel shocking when you feel like so much internal change has happened inside of you.
You Find Out Who Cares
Since time zones can be so tricky, you begin to find out which of your friends and family are willing to put in the effort to make time for you. Some friendships will slip to the wayside, and this can be sad. Spending those moments on Skype with loved ones begins to feel incredibly precious as well, and there is nothing in the world like getting a care package from home.
Your Old Beliefs Will Be Challenged
Once you have seen how people do things in many different places, it begins to become hard to cast any sort of judgement on others for the way they choose to live their lives. You begin to see beauty in people and things for different reasons that you might have previously. You may begin to question your old values and beliefs, and that’s okay.