8 valuable life lessons that you can only learn abroad

“Why should I travel?” If this thought has ever popped into your head, you’re not alone. Traveling internationally is a big investment. That being said, it’s a wise one for your personal development. There are some lessons that you can only learn by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and traveling abroad. These lessons will change how you see the world and other cultures for the rest of your life.


1. It’s not a small world after all

If you think the world is truly small, you definitely haven’t done enough to explore it. Traveling the world and inserting yourself into brand new international contexts will shake you to your core and open your eyes to the diverse planet we live on. Whether your passion is nature, culture, art or architecture, there are places all over the world that’ll allow you to explore your interests in exciting, new settings.


2. Home is not a place

Although there’s nothing quite like where you grow up or where your physical residence is, you never really leave behind where you’re from. When you travel internationally, you realize that wherever you go, you take your culture with you.


3. Making assumptions based on where someone is from is pretty ridiculous

For every cultural stereotype that exists, there are a thousand contradictions to that stereotype. Instead of judging people on where they’re from, when you’re abroad you learn to take each person as they are. Everyone is an individual. They are influenced by their culture, admittedly. However, they are a person with a certain upbringing and particular personality traits and idiosyncrasies that are way more interesting and human than sweeping generalizations.


why should I travel


4. There are an infinite amount of roads not taken

Robert Frost wrote about just the one, but you’ll realize quickly that the path ahead of you can take so many more turns – if you want it to. Once you spend some time outside of your home country, you realize that there are many other lifestyles and international possibilities open to you.


5. Second languages are not a waste of time

Just because language learning is difficult, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. A second language is one of the best ways to connect to a foreign culture and build relationships with people from a different background. Knowing another language also helps open your mind to a different way of thinking and perceiving the world.


6. Do not compare

Only a traveling novice will try to compare their experience in a new country to places they’ve already been. It’s human nature to try and make assumptions and make some sort of sense of this new world you’ve entered. However, if you take the new foreign experience for what it is, try to understand it on its own terms, you’ll keep your mind open.


why should I travel


7. Keeping an open mind is both harder and easier as you travel more

Traveling internationally allows you to break down the preconceived notions and assumptions that you had about different cultures and places in the world. At the same time, you will naturally replace these ideas with new ideas and assumptions based on your new experiences. While making certain judgements is natural when you travel, it’s important to realize that at on any given day abroad you’re experiencing merely a tiny pin prick of the local culture.


8. Knowing and speaking English opens an unbelievable amount of doors

English is the international language. You can go almost anywhere in the world just speaking English and get by, which is a huge advantage for native speakers. The global dominance of English becomes more and more evident with each international experience.


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Photo 1. based on Classroom, by Victor Björkund, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2 & 3 by Elizabeth Trovall


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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