Living abroad sounds like a fairytale, dream come true; and on some days that’s exactly what I felt like. And, well, on other days… I felt like I totally did not belong. For me, I think that if everyone has the opportunity to live abroad for a few months, take it! It’s really an amazing experience, filled with lots of crying, awkwardness, and frustration, but also filled with learning, growing, and expanding. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge to move abroad, maybe this might help you. Here are a few things that living abroad has taught me:
- I am one tough cookie!
The hard truth is that moving abroad is not for everyone. It’s tough being an expat in a foreign country, and even more difficult in a foreign language! One thing that moving to Spain has taught me is that “I AM ONE TOUGH COOKIE!” *insert flexing arm emoji here x3* That’s right! Living in a foreign country, culture, and language has taught me that although it may be hard (and extremely hard on other days), I held my own and made it through the journey. Heck, I even learned to love the journey and decided to return and go through it all over again!
- Patience, Patience, Patience… and EVEN MORE PATIENCE
When I first moved to Spain, I thought being there for a few days, I would just open myself up and soak up all the Spanish that I could and *voila!* I’m fluent! False. Actually, that is so false, and so wrong, and even after 10 months of being there, I still get nervous speaking to people. I learned that patience is key when you’re in a new city, country, language, or wherever. I couldn’t be fluent in Spanish in one week, no matter how much I willed myself to be a Spanish language sponge; it wasn’t going to happen. With a little (or a lot) of patience, and willingness to practice, I slowly became more fluent and can even crack a Spanish joke!
- How to be (more) resourceful
Let’s face it, if you move abroad, you can’t have all the resources, products, or even ingredients that you used to have back at home. In the small town that I lived in, there were many times that I had to be resourceful and a little crafty to create something for games and activities for my students. For Thanksgiving, Tim and I didn’t even have turkey or cornbread! I started becoming more creative with ideas, projects, games, and everyday house chores; finding different things and creating my own version of what I needed. It helped me think outside of the box, and even my students really enjoyed it!
- Being Open
I would consider myself a pretty open person. I try to be friendly, kind, and put myself out there to meet different people and include people in an activity or conversation. What I didn’t realize when trying to make friends in a foreign language, was that being open and friendly is a lot harder than I thought. It probably didn’t help that I was too scared to speak Spanish, and that I was too nervous to even know what to talk about. Eventually, I learned to accept that my Spanish was subpar and go for it and strike up a conversation and introduce myself to people, regardless of my fluency. It worked out for the better, because I actually started creating genuine friendships besides making “bar friends”.
- Don’t take myself so seriously
Probably one of the biggest of these things I learned is to not take myself so seriously. Even my boyfriend and roommate would tell me to relax and just have fun! The culture in Spain is very different. And the saying is right, “You can take a girl out of America, but you can’t take America out of the girl!” (or something along those lines). I tried to create schedules, have things in order, etc all the time. I mean, I tried to be a Spanish sponge and soak in all of the language I could, to be fluent in one week! I was too scared to speak in the beginning, afraid of making a mistake and sounding stupid. I finally learned to just have fun with it and laugh at myself if I made a mistake in Spanish (which I did, plenty of times). Word of advice, don’t say “polla” out loud… it’s not a female chicken, it’s more of male genitalia, oops!
If you’re moving abroad, or thinking about moving abroad, my advice is: DIVE INTO IT! It’s scary, and gave me a little bit of anxiety, but it’s been such an amazing and unforgettable journey that I only wish others can experience for themselves. If you’re a little on the fence about it, just leave!
And then, think later. That’s always been how I tend to make decisions, and I am turning out alright. Other expats, what are some things that living abroad has taught you? Did you feel the same way? Comment below!