Deciding to move to another Country is an enormous step. There are many factors to consider beforehand. You may wonder if it’s the right choice. I was in the same situation in 2014, when I applied for a year abroad, and then in 2018, after I graduated. I didn’t reflect on all the aspects of moving, as the romantic thought of being away from my hometown attracted me most of all. Now that I have been living overseas for the better part of the last 5 years, I can finally answer the following question: what are the pros and cons of living abroad?
The 3 pros of living abroad
The first positive feature that pops into mind is the variety of people you meet when you move to another Country. Let’s take my experience as an example. Most of my friends come from a vast assortment of backgrounds and ethnicities. This diversity is one of the key characteristic that will improve your life abroad.
When I started pondering about my future in the UK, I did not initially consider this point. I focused on which university had the best course and which town was most suited to my preferences. However, once I arrived in Southampton, I realised that the heterogeneity of those attending the University of Southampton was fundamental to understand the city’s vibe. According to the Uni, there are approximately 6,500 international students on campus, coming from 135 Countries in the world.
From such a multicultural environment, you can only expect to improve your understanding of how unique cultures work and why they are like that. This is relevant today, when globalisation means that opposite lifestyles come to contact and cohabit the same place. Living with people who think differently from you enhances your ability to empathise and tolerate the other.
Improving language skills
In 2015, when I went to Argentina, almost no one spoke English at a higher level. As a result, I had to learn Spanish if I wanted to talk with my family and friends. I’m not saying this to be mean, as it’s also true for Italy. Apart from a small circle of people that use it for business, the vast majority can only communicate to a minor extent. If I hadn’t completed the IELTS course in Bournemouth, I wouldn’t have been able to join the University of Southampton. This is because schools in Italy do not teach English at a level that’s high enough for students to attend UK universities.
It’s no secret that moving to a Country where its inhabitants speak a distinct language from yours is beneficial. As you are constantly surrounded by people, whose main mother tongue you are not familiar with, you need to find a way to communicate. Not everyone can speak English as fluently as to hold a proper conversation. Therefore, the only other available choice is to become proficient in the language spoken in your new Country.
Good for your curriculum
Last, moving to another Country is a step up for your C.V. It doesn’t matter if you are an undergraduate or postgraduate, or you want to work. The decision of living abroad is important and it shows employers that you will try to put effort in your endeavours.
There are various job offers and for every level of education. There are many websites where managers post propositions and their requirements. Look at my article Student or Worker? for more information and tips on this topic. You can also consider volunteering. Although it does not generate income, it’s an excellent activity that can also show to companies all the qualities they are looking for in an employee. If you enter a program abroad, you will learn different skills that will enhance your chances of being hired.
The 3 cons of living abroad
Far from family and friends
One of the most heart-breaking aspects of moving to another Country is being separated from your family and friends. People who share a powerful bond with their home life – myself included – might struggle to cope with distance. I didn’t like my hometown as a teen and I couldn’t wait to move to the UK, but when I found myself alone and in need of help, I wish I had my parents there.
Those who are following my story know that I was catapulted in Southampton without groceries and homeware, not even the duvets for my bed. After inspecting the bedroom in my accommodation, I had to go to IKEA and buy everything. When I realised I didn’t have any way of coming back with my shopping, I regretted my decision.
Even though the situation I just outlined is extreme, a time will come in your experience where you are homesick. It’s not just parents, it’s also friends, your hometown and the activities you used to do. Don’t allow this to ruin your experience. If you feel you need a bit of love, just send a message to your loved ones and – trust me – the day will get better.
In multicultural societies there are still reasons for friction between the different ethnicities. I haven’t experienced this myself, but I know some cases where cultural differences have sparked debate and arguments. This is the negative aspect of globalisation.
As an individual, I am used to dealing with people from all over the world, but it’s not be the case for everyone. If you lived in a smaller town like mine, there are just a few occasions where you face people from other cultures. However, thinking about Southampton, the amount of international people is astonishing. There are instances in which the difference in cultural background lead to problems within the community. The positive aspect of this is that discussion can lead to communication.
Dealing with criticism
When I applied for the scholarship with AFS, I was sure of the step I was taking. While in Argentina, my mom had to answer people’s questions and assumptions regarding my experience. Many said they didn’t expect me to take such an important decision, which in all honesty hurt my ego a bit. It wasn’t because I wanted everyone to have a good opinion of me, but because people have always underestimated my abilities. I was and still am attached to my family, so I guess this was the reason some didn’t were certain I could make it. Now that I’m older, I have achieved a level of independence that others are still working forward to.
After I moved to the UK, the same thing happened. No matter where I was going, criticism followed. Although I hope this is not the case for everyone, you need to take this aspect into consideration. There will always be people commenting on your reasons and means for living abroad, sometimes depreciating your work and commitment. What is fundamental in these instances is to discern between who wants to support you and bring you down.
When I look at this list and think about my experience in the UK, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Even though I have not considered these aspects before moving, I suggest anyone who wants to live abroad to ponder the pros and cons. Make a list or use mine as a template. Reflect on what you want to achieve and which Country is the most suitable for your purpose. If you find that the pros are more important than the cons, than pack your bag and book a plane ticket. You are ready to start your new adventure.