Sunday, January 18, 2015

10 Ways Studying Abroad Changes You


This post is for anyone who is looking to become an exchange student, is an exchange student or just anyone who loves to experience the spectacular world around them. I've compiled a list of 10 ways that studying abroad can change you, and hopefully it encourages more people to take the leap into an amazing adventure.

1. You learn that bravery isn't the half of it.

Whether you're boarding the plane to go or just living in your host country it can be common to hear people saying how brave you are for going on exchange. While it definitely takes a degree of courage to get on that plane in the first place and leave your comfortable and familiar life behind to make a new life, bravery is only like 1/5 of the equation. The rest is the need to travel and the need to experience a new culture. That's the other 4/5 of it. You really have to want it with your whole heart.

2. Your confidence level soars.

Leaving your comfort zone, leaving your family and friends back in your home country and having to adapt to a completely new culture and completely new way of life makes your confidence go through the roof. At first, you're a little shy but when you learn the language, learn the culture and learn how to live in the host country you'll be more confident than ever because you have to meet new people, you have to ask for help and you have to grow in order to survive.

3. Normal does not exist.

What you think is normal can be completely different than what is normal in another culture. When you go abroad, you learn what is normal in your host country. You learn to realize that normal isn't really even a thing. Every culture is unique, every person is unique. No one is normal, we only think that things are normal because they are familiar to you. What is familiar to you though, is not familiar to another person.

4. You get the travel bug, and you'll never be the same.

Once you get a taste of traveling and immersing yourself into a new culture, you'll never go back. You'll always have the urge to get out of your comfort zone, the urge to dive right into a culture that is unusual to you, to walk in someone else's shoes and survive. There's no getting rid of it.

5. You find things that tourists don't.

Yes, there is a difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. A tourist spends a week or two in a city seeing the sights while a traveler immerses themselves into new cultures and learns what it's like to be a member of that culture. They stay more than a few weeks and see things that tourists do not. They see how people go about daily life and they learn the culture and beliefs of that country. They are observers. When you study abroad, you find things in your host city that normal tourists wouldn't find. That nice coffee shop on the corner that serves the best americano or the shop owner just trying to make ends meet.

You learn to see a country by it's people and not by it's representatives like we so often do.

6. Your personality will change.

Sure you seem the same on the outside, but inside you change so much. Learning to be independent, building the courage required to survive in difficult situations and learning the beliefs of another culture. You're beliefs will most likely change while abroad, you'll see the world in a different light and you'll have more patience and tolerance for the people around you.

7. Studying abroad makes you smarter.

You learn to be flexible, you learn to adapt and you learn to become a new person. Essentially when you're on exchange, you're building a new life from scratch. No one knows you from before, everyone you meet is new. Studying abroad makes you a better problem solver and makes you more creative, studies show.

8. You appreciate what you have.

After being away for a year, you appreciate the days you have with your family and friends. Even during the year, the limited time you have with these friends in your host country is valuable to you. That passes over when you return home. You learn that it's better to spend money on experiences rather than objects. Items will break eventually and leave your life whereas experiences will be with you forever.

9. Your expectations of a place completely change.

For example, before I came to Norway I had many different expectations. Of course, before I came I researched a little bit, so I knew that it was an expensive and safe country, but I still believed that the Norwegian people were cold, they were different than most people I knew from the USA and I thought that everywhere in Norway had a lot of snow all the time during the winter. Well when I arrived here, I realized that when you get to know a Norwegian, they can be very caring people... even more than some Americans. They're not so different than people I know in the US. Where I live in Norway, we barely had snow... right now there isn't snow on the ground and it was raining yesterday...

10. Life is too short not to live.

Most people think that they'll get a job, make enough money so they can enjoy life when they're older. I don't know how anyone believes that's the way to live life, because it isn't... Sure, try to get a steady income and try to keep your head above water. Basically what I'm trying to say is do what you love to do instead of doing work you dislike. Live your life.

Well that was a deep article to write :P

All of it is true, which is why I encourage everyone to study abroad. When you first tell people you're going to study abroad, some people will tell you "You're going to miss a year of your life if you go." That isn't true, you don't miss a year in your life, you gain a life in a year.


Ethan Block

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