7 unforgettable firsts of living abroad

1. First time you are mistaken for a local

That moment when you get stopped in the middle of the street and asked for directions is priceless. Yes, I do live here, I can show you where to go and I am not a tourist!


living abroad experience


2. First dream in a foreign language

You might not remember the details when you wake up, but you’ll know it happened. That first dream in a foreign language often occurs during a language immersion experience, like living abroad. It’s a wonderful indicator that your brain is soaking up all that exposure to a foreign language and you’re a step closer to fluency.


3. First time you get completely lost and find your way home

Getting lost for the first time isn’t exactly something you want to remember. But that first time you actually navigate your way back home is an experience to be savored. It’s a huge learning moment, even if it takes hours and feels like a waste of time. Learning is never a waste!


living abroad experience


4. First local friend

Maybe you met at the gym in your building or at a nearby coffee shop, but this is your very first local friend in a foreign country and it’s a pretty big deal. Friendships with locals ground you to a nation’s people and the culture in a unique way. A local friend also isn’t necessarily an easy thing to find, which is why when you find them, you really cherish them.


5. First time you don’t have to ask any questions about the menu

Navigating the menu in a foreign country can be more problematic than anyone would like to admit. Asking the waiter tons of questions can be uncomfortable, though it’s important to understand what you’ll be getting on your plate, especially if you have allergies. You’ll be so relieved that first day you pop open the menu and know exactly what you want.


6. First time missing your native tongue

As exciting as it can be living in a country where they speak a foreign language, it can get tiring always having to think a little bit harder about what to say in public places. It’s just not as comfortable speaking a foreign language, so it’s natural to miss speaking in your native tongue. This is especially true when you’re looking for a specific medicine or food item that you have no clue how to say.


living abroad experience


7. First time you’re homesick for a place outside your home country

This is what happens once you get back home, of course. No matter how happy you may be to be back in your home country with your family, you’ll really miss the sights, tastes, sounds and smells of your intern abroad country!


To read more about the living abroad experience, check out the blogs that our alumni wrote about their experiences.


Photo 1. based on Blonde asking for directions, by Jacob Munk-Stander, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on ISC Integration Party Spring 2012, by Jirka Matousek, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Hong Kong, by Colin Tsoi, CC-by-2.0


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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