I recently just finished my study abroad session in Germany. It was only a month, which of course is a very short time frame, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have enough time to learn anything. Here is a short list of five things that I learn while being abroad.
1.The Most Valuable Lessons are Found Outside the Classroom
There is much to learn inside the classroom, but the best lessons in life are often found in day to day life. Living in a different country can often be a challenging experience and can force you to think fast on your feet. Learning how to get out of bad situations, communicating with language barriers, and learning how to adapt to cultural norms are all examples of this.
2.Cultural Exchanges Are Okay
I think many student studying abroad don’t let the culture they are in make an impact on them. They tend to play it safe and only stick with things that are familiar to them. I have found it is important to do things that you normally don’t get to do at home and to push yourself outside your comfort zone. (Which doesn’t include getting drunk and extra obnoxious because you are in a foreign country) Trying new things and meeting new people allows you to learn more about yourself and gives you a broader outlook. Let the country and the people of that country leave an impact on you, but also share your culture as well.
3. Your Expectations Will Be Shattered
For me I had a lot of different ideas what being in a different country was going to be like. You grow up having different perceptions all based from what the media portrays. When I finally arrived in Europe I honestly had a lot of different ideas on what the country would be like and the people. A great deal of these perceptions were wrong. For example the French are not generally rude and will hate you for being American/English Speaking. (Note: I was only in Paris, which is quite touristy, mind you.) Since, I was also living abroad being in a place become less exotic if you are trying to live day to day life. As an example I became a little desensitized to the fact many shops were closed on Sundays and made sure to do my grocery shopping on a Saturday or Friday.
4. Kindness is Universal
I had a lot of troubles while abroad. For the first few days I hardly had any Euros because I got locked out of my account, I didn’t have an adapter to charge any of my electronics, my phone didn’t work abroad, and I was constantly getting lost in the city I was studying in. I can honestly say I am pretty sure I made every rookie mistake one can make in a foreign country. One thing I did have to learn is to actually ask for help because there were many times where I was unable to figure out certain things by myself. This was hard for me because I pride myself in being independent. The thing I found is that people are kind all over the world and are more than willing to help you out, even if you are just a confused little tourist.
I am a lucky individual to be given the chance to see and actually be in some of the places I am in. For many traveling is a dream and many don’t even know certain places exist. After so many people have been so kind to me it is important to say thank you and to show gratitude. Saying thank you in another language is one of the most essential skills one can. I made sure to write a thank you note to all my teachers and for those who helped me. (I also made sure to add special candies that you can only find in my part of the globe, this sort of goes back to sharing your own culture.) At the end of the day savor the moment and days you have, especially if things don’t always go as planned.
Image Credit: Eli Defaria
These are just a few things I learned during my short semester. For those who have lived in a foreign country, what things have you learned?