When I thought about leaving home and studying abroad, I dreamed about independence, living the American dream, partying hard, and having no routine. Living abroad, however, entails adapting yourself and dealing with a series of questionings along the way. Being away from your home country means seeing our own culture through new eyes and also learning from others.
For me, summarized in six topics, these are some of the things you need to remember before you being the adventure of living in another country. In my case no one warned me, but I'm telling you now.
1. You have responsibilities wherever you are!
Maybe leaving home means you won’t have your parents keeping track of you all the time, and maybe you won’t have to listen to someone asking you to do things, such as cleaning your bedroom or studying for your exams. But here is the thing: your bedroom still needs to be cleaned and your exams won’t be cancelled. Living by yourself or in a dorm doesn’t mean your responsibilities change, you just don’t have someone to remind you of them! In fact, being independent means you must deal with them by yourself. You will have to mature either way, and not everyone will have the kindness and patience of your parents to teach you that!
2. Everybody you meet will teach you something new.
This is about being open to new perspectives. When away from your culture, accept the differences between people, and carry on accordingly. Even the person which you expect to learn nothing from can teach you a lesson about humility and kindness.
3. Nobody told me how many moments I wouldn’t be there for.
When we leave our country for a long program opportunity, we do get a sense that we will miss some events, such as weddings, graduations, and birthdays. But not just that. You will also miss out on that fun trip with your best friends. You will miss many Sunday lunches, too, and you will not be there on that day when your parents really need you. I also have to tell you that you may also miss the moments of farewell, such as when a beloved one passes. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest difficulties of living abroad.
4. Nobody told me how many moments I would live by myself!
An exchange program can be a chance for you to love your own company. There’ll be moments and feelings you will experience that you won’t be able to explain to anyone. Sometimes all you’ll have to share is a selfie or a memory. But only you will know the real feeling, and that’s awesome!
5. It will show you the laces you will keep for the rest of your life.
Facebook, Facetime, Skype and MMS may not be enough, and as hard as you try, some friends from your hometown will not be as close when you get back. You will miss the day-to-day chatting and the convenience of calling a friend up to see a movie. However, you will meet TONS of new people and will find more things in common with them than you thought! Maybe, you will meet the love of your life, or you and your roommate will share a bond as if you knew each other for a life time! The most amazing thing about MET International is that it puts you in close contact with people from everywhere in the globe. You WILL try that foreign food you said you didn’t like it, and will catch yourself trying to learn some foreign languages because now you are a citizen of the world.
6. You will change!
I’m not only talking about losing or gaining a few pounds (the dining hall foods contributes to one or another…), but also about your personality. You WILL step out of your comfort zone, and it will force you to question the world, your decisions, and your perspectives in life. It will make you wonder if you should go home or not, if your life is better now than before, and it will give you some new achievements to fight for. Living abroad means creating bonds with other cultures, lifestyles, and habits, and sometimes, distancing ourselves from old habits. Living abroad is about making the better choice and giving up many others.
Not only these, but also other situations while living abroad will shape you and teach you a lesson. Through each day and experience, you become stronger and the CEO of your own life. Living abroad is a huge challenge, but also a great reward that NO ONE can take from you!