1. Celebrating your holidays from home with a group of friends who’ve never experienced it (such as having Thanksgiving dinner in France or the Fourth of July in Japan) is way too fun to pass up.
2. Having friends to visit on both sides of the ocean gives you something to always look forward to, and be working towards.
3. There are limitless new ways of thinking and perceiving the world, and you discover them only when you immerse yourself in a new language and force yourself to think in it.
4. Even if the language isn’t different, you come to realize how different two cultures with the same language can actually be.
5. Sending and receiving postcards, and the feeling of opening up the mailbox and seeing a beautiful new picture with the handwritten words on the back.
6. The rainbow of junk food available in each country — and the variations on all of the greasy, sugary stuff you love at home — is something that everyone should get to explore.
7. Expat bar crawls are the best thing ever.
8. Singing songs together, drunkenly, from your home country while on said bar crawl is also the best thing ever.
9. You immediately gain a new perspective on your home country, and start to realize all the things you took for granted as being “normal” when it was only “normal” to your country.
10. You completely redefine what “normal” actually means.
11. Getting immersed in an entirely new cuisine, and all the rituals and joys around eating that come with it. (I miss you, proper crusty bread, I miss you so much. I miss passing you around the table and breaking off a piece, and then loading you up with perfect, smelly cheese during the mandatory cheese courses at the end of every meal.)
12. You might fall in love with a local.
13. Simple things, like the curve of a rooftop or the way the sun comes up behind certain neighborhoods, may become the most special thing about your time in that country.
14. Mastering visa paperwork, and all of the tedious immigration office trips that go with it, means that you’ll be able to do just about anything.
15. Finding out all of the things you love that you never would have even known existed otherwise, and this includes people.
16. Getting to discover an entire history of pop culture that you didn’t grow up with — from the music, to the TV shows, to the beloved books — and coming to finally understand all the references you’ve been hearing in everyday conversation.
17. Bilingual swearing.
18. Falling asleep for the first night in the apartment you found all by yourself in your new home.
19. United Nations conference-looking wine nights that end at three in the morning, often on a rooftop.
20. Filling up a scrapbook with all the plane tickets, metro cards, and business cards for beloved cafés you accumulate along the way. (And yes, looking at them is just as amazing as you think it would be.)
21. Getting to know the new version of yourself, every personality trait brought out by your surroundings and your new opportunities and the people you’ve met.
22. Re-learning how to do basic things like getting your groceries, ordering dinner, and using public transportation makes you independent in ways you didn’t know you could be.
23. The feeling of sitting alone by yourself in a new city and having nothing in front of you but an empty notebook, a cup of coffee, and finally a little bit of time to think.
Dreaming about what it’s like to live abroad? Find out here.