6 ½ Things You Didn't Know About Yourself Before Working Abroad
You know yourself pretty well. Or at least that’s what you think. Yet coming back after 12 months abroad and nothing feels the same. Not even you. Living and working abroad can be a self-changing experience. It may bring qualities and traits to the surface you had no idea you had. Think of it as a psychoanalytic therapy without the poker-faced dude sitting opposite you doing nothing but asking questions and taking notes.
But let’s get to the heart of the matter. What are the most common things you learn about yourself when living abroad?
Thing #1: You are not a chicken after all
Everything seems 10 times scarier when you are all alone in a foreign country. What if’s and worst-case scenarios run through your mind every other second. What if I get hurt? What if I get lost in a dodgy area? What if I get robbed?
Plus small tasks like going to the bank or talking in another language scare the bejesus out of you. But usually this happens in the first few days. Bit by bit you learn to deal with your fears. Cause basically you have no other option. And then one day you wake up as Chuck Norris, as in fearless - and this ain’t no joke-.
Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. – Japanese Proverb
Thing #2: You are less boring than you thought
Okay I know you think you are freaking awesome. But how would it feel if you had no other person to hang out with than your – freaking awesome- self? Boring like watching paint dry, right? Well not really. Living abroad makes you learn how to enjoy yourself all by yourself.
You have so many options even when alone. You can read books, take long walks, or go to the movies - without being scared of running into people you may know-. You can be fun to hang out with. Trust me. Just try not to talk to yourself, because this may cross the awkward line.
Thing #3: You used to be shy. Not anymore
If you are the kind of person that turns red when talking to strangers, working abroad may prove hard to stomach. However being alone in a foreign country will make you spend a lot of time with unknown people and will put you into interactions you would otherwise avoid. That’s why it is so good for you. I have known a handful of shy people (me included) who were forced to come out of their shell after living abroad. So are you ready to say bye to shy?
Thing #4: You can count on you and that’s the only thing that counts!
No, mama or papa won’t be there for you. You will have to do everything on your own. From the simplest to the most complicated things. From paying your bills to getting your keys out of an elevator shaft (true story). And even if you cry your eyes out there won’t be any abracadabra solutions. But here’s the real magic; you can finally depend on yourself.
Thing #5: You are not the center of the world. Not even close
Stepping out of your golden cage may come as a shock. Before traveling abroad we tend to define our way of life as ”right” or “normal”. However there is more than one “right” or “normal” way of life. And this is one thing you’ll only understand if you have lived abroad.
Every country has its own cultural values, customs, beliefs and common attitudes. Which is actually intriguing. Because it makes you question your understanding of the world. It makes you break down your stereotypes. And this is called open-mindedness. So you’ll come to realize you are not the center of the world and that this is not the end of the world.
Thing #6: You can be anyone you want
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you should come up with a secret identity. All I am saying is this is the first time you will be 110% alone. No family. No friends. Therefore no judgments and no nos. How liberating!
You can go dressed as you wish -when not at work-. You can take up a hobby, however silly or extreme. But above all it is totally up to you to decide whom to spend time with. Your mother’s best friend’s son is 2000 miles away. Phew. So be anyone you want to be, without giving a seat (sic) what others think of you.
Thing #6½: Your heart can be divided into two halves
Most often living abroad may turn out to be a great experience. So even if you go back home (half of) your heart will always belong to the city where you’ve spent some of the most exciting times of your life. And this is the whole truth.
Not everything will be pink or easy as 1-2-3 when living and working abroad. But when the dust settles one thing is for sure: you will no longer be the same person. For better or better. And it’s not just me saying this; science has proven that working abroad affects mental change.
In any case the one thing you should keep in mind before you work abroad is that this experience will give you the biggest confidence boost. This kind of feeling that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!