1. You Learn That Most of Your Fears Are Unjustified
In a foreign country, things as simple as buying groceries, getting on the bus or asking for directions can induce paralyzing fear. You have no choice but to confront many of these fear-inducing situations on a daily basis – at which point you quickly learn that your fears are almost always unjustified, self-imposed limitations.
2. You Learn You’re Far More Capable Than You Believe
This repetition of overcoming unjustified fears bleeds into other areas of your life and as a result, your confidence grows. You start thinking outside the box you were keeping yourself in. I suppose I could quit my job and start a business. I’m going to talk to that stranger at the bar! Sure, sign me up for those salsa classes! You learn you’re far more capable than you thought.
3. You Learn That Experiences Outweigh Possessions
When your material possessions are limited by what you’re able to carry, you quickly discover what’s important. You learn that memories don’t exist in old brown boxes of junk – they exist in your head. You realize that you don’t need much stuff at all. Anything you don’t have, you borrow from new friends, strengthening relationships in the process. You don’t buy anything unnecessary when you can’t carry it home. You have more space in your life, now you’re not buying, cleaning, tidying and fixing things. You stop collecting stuff and start collecting memories.
4. You Learn Where Your Feelings Come From
Even when you leave life as you know it, parachute into a new country, get a new job and make new friends, you still seem to have all of the same problems. The same type of issues with your new boss or friends, and the same internal struggles. You realize that your happiness is a direct result of who you are – the thoughts you think and the choices you make. From this, you learn a new level of accountability for your situation and feelings.
5. You Learn That You Have More Control Than You Think
Now, you’re acutely aware of how much your choices actually matter. Daunting as it is, you begin to take more responsibility for your personal circumstances and you start to change yourself – and in turn, your life – for the better.
6. You Learn to Look for The Common Denominator
Most people’s friends are from school or their work, and are similar to them in age, socio-economic background, religion, political stance and nationality. Living abroad, you’re forced to seek out and befriend people you often have – on the surface at least – little in common with. You learn to look for the common denominator, however small it may be. You develop friendships with a diverse group of people, which cultivates tolerance and understanding, garners curiosity, breaks down barriers, and expands your worldview.
7. You Learn to Question Things
When living abroad, you’re able to gain a new perspective of home – especially of its politics, religious views and social norms. Now that prejudices and barriers are breaking down, you learn to understand that the things you believe and the way you approach most situations, often originate from deeply ingrained cultural biases. You realize that the more you question things, the more you can learn and progress as an individual – and that when you progress as an individual, you help society move forward.
8. You Learn to Talk About The Things That Matter
“What do you do?” is often the first question people ask each other. Your job gets talked about first because it’s how people attempt to define you. When living abroad, you’re first asked, “Where are you from?” and “Why did you move?” – in the eyes of your new friend, your answers define you more than your job ever could. Without “What do you do?” hijacking the conversation, you learn to talk about what really matters: relationships, passions, interests, goals and dreams.