“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” -Mark Twain
Why go abroad to live, intern or travel? Whether you’re learning the importance of tea time in London or sharing a bandeja paisa with a new friend in Colombia, living abroad offers unforgettable and fulfilling life experiences that have a lasting effect on who you are. Traveling and living abroad will open your eyes to just how big the world is – and how much there is to know about our planet’s many cultures. Books and classes are an important educational foundation, but there are some lessons that you can only truly learn by living abroad.
Why go abroad? 8 reasons why living abroad will make you a better human:
1. You’ll grow nicer to strangers
Living abroad will make you depend on the kindness of strangers. Though some people will be more compassionate and patient than others, you’ll be surprised how helpful people can be when you’re in a tough spot. Learning to trust others when you’re vulnerable and in a foreign country will inevitably make you kinder to people that you find in a similar position. It’s just good karma.
2. You’ll be more forgiving of accents and less-than-perfect English
There’s nothing more humbling than having to repeat a question multiple times in a foreign language because the local native speaker doesn’t understand you. Suddenly, people who speak near-perfect English and occasionally struggle with word intonation will seem like geniuses. You’ll realize that mastering a language is a long process that takes years of study and most people, no matter how brilliant, never quite lose their accent.
3. You’ll be less ethnocentric
It’s hard to think that the world revolves around you and your country when you’re abroad. The world is a very big place, but that realization won’t ever come when you’ve stayed in your home country your whole life. There are many different perspectives out there and it’s important to learn about how other people see global issues. You may not change your mind, but you’ll at least learn to respect the other points of view out there.
4. You’ll learn to be more patient
The only way to survive life abroad is to learn how to be patient and not sweat the small stuff. Everything will function differently than it did back home, so you’ll really need to take your time and relax with the new system. People from the United States especially learn this lesson when abroad, as food and customer service is rarely as fast in other countries as it is in the states.
5. You’ll be more comfortable outside your comfort zone
Going abroad won’t all of a sudden make you able to seamlessly explore and partake in all the world’s cultures. It will, however, teach you how to be comfortable outside of your home culture, outside your comfort zone. Learning how to just go with the flow, even if you’re secretly freaking out on the inside, is a skill that doesn’t just apply to multicultural situations. Keeping your cool when you’re a fish out of water is also vital in professional environments and will earn you respect from your managers.
6. You’ll be more hospitable
Understanding how hard it is to be new to a foreign country is a great eye-opener for people who live in countries that often see immigrants and expats coming in from all over the world. You’ll know what it’s like to be a guest in a new country and will be better equipped to make foreigners feel welcome and comfortable.
7. You’ll become smarter
Spending time abroad provides a new lens through which you can see the world – a multicultural lens. Understanding the complexities and nuances within any culture (even your own) is impossible without having seen and experienced other cultural realities.
8. You’ll learn a foreign language
A foreign language can help you connect with so many new cultural groups and understand a foreign culture on a much deeper level. It’s also a very useful skill in the professional world which is becoming increasingly globalized. Being bilingual also has significant positive effects on the brain and can stave off Alzheimer’s.