You asked: What place changed you the most and how? This is part II of my response: the move. It is tied in with recent news related to studying abroad, since this particular move was about moving to become an international student in another country. (Read part I here).
This post is about how the move influenced me and why I think it’s a good idea to study abroad. With Michelle Obama’s recent interview on the value of international experiences and the initiative #generationstudyabroad, I thought this would be a timely post.
The setting: I moved to Los Angeles to do an exchange year abroad and ended up staying in Southern California to finish my studies there. Here’s how the move affected me and why I think studying abroad is a great idea:
- The long-term benefits are countless. You will feel lucky and grateful and rich for the rest of your life.
- Living with local roommates is one of the most enriching experiences. You will get very intense lessons in intercultural communication, a deeper insight into another language (and thereby world) and into the handling of everyday issues and what those issues are in the first place. You will learn about different approaches, compromise and develop strategies to communicate and live together. And you might make lifelong friends along the way. It teaches you skills that translate to other areas of life as well: communication, management, conflict resolution and so on.
- Get to know a different kind of education and teaching system. For me, it was liberating! In the US, you had guidelines and requirements but within those requirements you had choices! It felt so freeing: having choices and taking responsibility for making them. And to make those choices, you also had to ask yourself: what am I really interested in? By studying abroad, you’ll get an insight into a different structure, understand it better and by extension your own structure and yourself as well. It will give you a better idea of what you want or don’t want.
- Understanding other people’s realities as well as their approaches, priorities and values makes us kinder and more compassionate. If everyone were to have the opportunity to spend time abroad and experience other countries in a genuine way with genuine interest, foreign policy might be more sound and we might be dealing with fewer displays of international bullying and defiant flaunting of force. Maybe. But I think it’s a ‘maybe’ worth aiming for.
- The experience might make you more marketable in the job world, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll have the perspective to know that it’s not about the value others assign to your experience, but the value it has for you. You get to determine what it means to you.
- Facing, dealing with and overcoming challenges is liberating and empowering. Learning about coping strategies and asking for help is part of it. You’ll be able to apply them in other contexts as well.