I believe that the first time I stayed abroad was 6 years ago. When talking about staying abroad, I mean, for an extended amount of time. Back then, I never thought I’d be living abroad, still now. I got to go back and forth between being abroad and being back home in France. All this, till I moved to Sweden! Living abroad brought me so much and helped me grow. So, after 2,5 years in Sweden, I do believe that everyone should live abroad at least once in their life.
Since I now live in Sweden, I often get the question “how it is like to live abroad?”. And I don’t really have a good answer for that. My answer is, well, it is the same as for you, living in another city, but with a different language. Does this make sense to you? No. Right. It does not make sense because living abroad is a lot more than just living in a place with a different language.
It is quite difficult to explain how it is like to live abroad as everyone has different experiences and also because it varies a lot based on the country you call “home”. But overall, living abroad brings a lot to a person, and this is why today I want to encourage everyone to think about it.
I wanted to list some of the reasons why you should consider moving abroad. There are many more, of course, and some might be more personal than others. But I believe that everything is worth to be considered! And if you’re interested in something more personal about what living in Sweden brought me, you should have a look at this article.
Getting out of your comfort zone,
This is probably the hardest thing to do. But I think, it is also the most rewarding. I have never been so proud of myself than when I accomplish something abroad. Because we need to admit that all the little things are not so easy actually. That everything takes a lot more than back home. It takes time to get used to all the changes, the new culture, the new language and just the new surroundings. And when you think you mastered it all, something will come and remind you that you are not home. Getting out of my comfort zone has been very helpful and I notice changes even when I am back home!
An example? Taking a bus driving on a new route & not understanding where it is going. It does sound basic, but when you made it to the destination, it is quite satisfactory!
Meeting new people,
There is no better opportunity to grow your network than being abroad. Meeting expats from your home country, meeting new local colleagues, or just random strangers in a bar. Being abroad, especially if you come with a job, will give a great boost to your network, meet new friends or people with similar interests etc. The more people you’ll meet, the more open-minded you’ll be, as humans learn so much from each other.
An example?! Going to university in Sweden, meeting a lot of amazing people and meeting them all over the world when travelling or when they come visit Stockholm!
Learning new things everyday,
This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest takeaways. One of the biggest advantages of living abroad. In fact, because you are out of your comfort zone every day you need to adapt and for such you will be learning new things. A new culture, a new language or even another way of behaving. I often complain about how hard it is to learn Swedish, but you know what, I am so happy I go to classes! How many other people can say they can speak Swedish?!
The last thing I learnt?! More Swedish! Yes, I just finished another language course and I’m proud of it!
Making your own opinion on things,
When abroad, and especially when moving alone, there is no one to guide you through things. You need to make your own experiences and therefore make your mind on things. It is easy to listen to people around and what they think, but until you experience them, it is hard to relate. And if we take this the other way around, it is easier to make your mind around things happening back home while being abroad. In my opinion, you have more freedom to think about things as there is not a crowd of people around you trying to influence you.
For instance, there are a lot of social protest in France and while being abroad, you don’t have the local pressure to take a stance for that. Instead, you have the time to study what’s being it and agree or not with what’s happening.
Being proud of who you are,
It happened more than once, when I said I am French, people would give me a look. As crazy as it sounds, this is something I never thought would happen. But OK, I need to admit that French people don’t have the best reputation abroad. That is true, but always remember that not everyone is the same and therefore you need to stand for yourself and be proud of who you are and where you’re from. This is something I learnt while being in Sweden and I believe it helps in many situations. Both abroad and back home. You will one day need to promote yourself or introduce yourself and this is a great exercise!
Example: Despite jokes and remarks on who you are, all these people probably don’t know you and at the end of the day, you are the one adapting to their environment, using your roots back home!
Becoming more open-minded & flexible,
This section is like the consequences of the above! By living abroad, you will have to be flexible and open-minded, mainly because as you are the foreigner, you are the one to adapt. I am, in no way, saying that it is easy and that it comes fast, but this is one of the most important things to remember. Living abroad is challenging in many ways and simple things are not always as simple as they look like. But, by being flexible and willing to adapt to your new environment, your stay abroad will be much nicer.
An example?! Understanding and respecting the notion of personal space in Sweden & Scandinavia!
It is a unique experience.
All in all, this is what should be remembered. Living abroad is an amazing, unique and personal experience. Only you will live these things and it is quite hard to take them away from you. No matter if at the end of the day you’ll be coming back home or staying abroad, you will always have these memories. All these experiences are anchored in us. They help us grow, build personalities and teach us the importance of respect!