The decision of moving to another Country is one of the toughest a person has to make. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it to start university, to find a better job or just for the sake of adventure; the simple facts of grabbing your belongings and leaving your home are brave moves. Many people have asked me about my experience in the UK, but only a few stopped to reflect on how my life has changed throughout the years. If you’re thinking about starting your escapade towards unknown lands, you might wonder about the effects this will have on you and on your relationship with family and friends.
I remember the day I moved to Argentina as clear as day; I was 17 and sick of living in my hometown. When I discovered I would move to the other side of the world, I felt a big sense of responsibility on my shoulders. Now that I’m older and I’ve been living abroad for the best part of the last 5 years, I’m even more aware of the importance of that decision.
There are so many examples I could give to explain how living abroad changes you, but I’ll point out the top 5.
5 Ways in which living abroad changes you
It makes you more responsible
Maybe the most obvious aspect of moving to another country is the amount of responsibility that falls onto you all at once. If you followed my journey, you know that when I arrived in Southampton in September 2018; I was alone. I didn’t have a safety net and friends to count on.
Most of the people who start a new life abroad are in the same situation I was in. When you find yourself apart from your home, you need to find original ways to cope with what life throws at you. Rent, groceries, university; you name it. If you were living with your parents, you were probably used to them dealing with problems. After you move abroad, this will change. You will not only have to deal with your personal life but also with the financial and logistic aspects.
In my case, I went from being an Italian only child – with all the perks that this gives you – to moving first to Argentina and then to the UK. Although in Argentina I was living with a family and had much more support, I still had to figure out how to manage the money I had and the transport back and forth to the town centre. It seems easy, but those who lived in South America recognize it’s not as straightforward as it seems. When I moved to the UK, all the responsibilities fell on me, so I learned to hack it.
It teaches you patience
Patience is the ability to tolerate the delays and the problems life puts in your way without being anxious and stressed. This is the easiest quality to explain, but the toughest to develop.
I would lie if I told you I already discern how to be patient, even though I had to face hardship. Let’s take my living arrangement as an example. Before lock-down, I was staying in private student halls. My room has a private bathroom, but I need to share the kitchen with 4 other people. Probably you know where I’m going with this. After the first couple of months there, problems arose because of the disrespectful use of the communal kitchen. When this issues started, I had already signed the contract for the academic year 2019/2020, so I could not move away from that situation. These circumstances are common. Most people in the first year do not yet grasp what they prefer in terms of accommodation. International students often move to another Country without their friends, so they have to live with individuals they have never met.
Let’s get back to patience. I had to put up with a lot during these 2 years there, but I learned how to deal with the annoyance, disappointment, stress and discontent. I am far away from being perfect and I still allow my unhappiness to get me sometimes, but my attitude towards problems has changed. Even though I’m using housing as an example, everything abroad requires patience. This might be true in your home Country, but the additional challenges of life overseas help you develop more insight on what’s fundamental. In exchange, this allows you to mature and become more patient.
It makes you open-minded
What does it mean to be open-minded? The term is often used to talk about a person willing to try unfamiliar things. However, I think the best definition of the word is to consider other people’s perspective and emotions.
Living in another Country forces you to be in contact with people from many backgrounds and ideas. My experience has brought me to share moments with individuals who had opinions about life which differed from mine. I did not agree with them all the times, but I’m still friends with them. It’s not always easy to do so. I had to learn how to distinguish between the person and their ideas.
The most important thing to remind yourself when interacting with others is to understand their perspective. I’ll make an example. If your friend is coming from a Country where certain rights are not a matter of fact, they might believe they are not fundamental. This does not mean they can’t change their minds, but it also does not mean you need to force them to reach your same conclusions.
When you move abroad and come in close contact with people from all over the world, this process happens quicker. As people learn how to stick together in situations of need, they also become more open to different standpoints.
It makes you value what you have home
Since I was a teen, I never like my hometown much. Even though it’s historical and the centre is just beautiful, it’s small and there are limited opportunities for people in STEM - science, technology, engineering and medicine students. When I realised I wanted to become a Neuroscientist, I also understood there was no place for me there.
I never understood how much I loved being at home until I had to stay away from it for months. After some time in Argentina – those of you who follow my podcast The Argentina Experience are updated on how much I longed for this experience – I started being homesick. I did not expect it.
Italy is not the perfect Country. There is a reason I live in the UK and study there, but I still wait with expectations until the day I can go back for the holidays. My parents are the most important people in my family, so I always look forward to seeing them. And I expect the time when I’m able to get to the town centre and roam the streets of my childhood.
It helps you put things into perspective
More times than not, we get angry and upset at lots of aspects in our daily lives. There are many factors which can interfere with our routines and we overreact. The reason we can’t seem to deal with problems is we are anxious about them; this is even more so after moving abroad.
When do you learn how to put events into perspective? The answer is: you never do it totally. However, life in another country helps with understanding what’s important. As I already said for patience, the amount of issues that arise when you live far from home is high. To lead a content life, especially when the people you love are far away from you, you need to ask yourself: will this thing I’m upset about be relevant a week from now? Can I solve it? After you reach the answers to these questions, you will not only feel better, but you will have made an important step towards becoming more aware of the actual issues in life.
There are over 5 ways living abroad changes you; you can reflect about it and let me know. I would love to know your perspective on this. In my case, moving to another Country has changed my life for the best. I’m much more aware of the important aspects in life. I encourage everyone to move abroad for a while. Those who do not have the financial support to study, then consider Au Pair and similar experiences. Trust me when I say you won’t regret it and you will come home a more responsible and tolerant person.