Why You Should Live Abroad Now
Moving abroad is one of the most scary and most rewarding things a young person can do. As students and recent graduates don’t have as many major life responsibilities, it’s easier to take the plunge and move abroad than when pesky things like mortgages and careers start to get in the way. Whether you’re still at uni or have just graduated, living abroad can give you a wealth of positive experiences that will enrich your life and help you stand out from the crowd when searching for a job.
Going to uni probably felt exciting and challenging in your first year, but it can also be stressful and repetitive. Maybe you feel a bit restless and wish you had new challenges to tackle or just want a change of scenery. Moving abroad will get you out of your comfort zone and back on the way to excitement and adventure. Your choices are almost limitless. If you’re interested in art or fashion, think about moving to Paris. If you want to experience a completely different way of life, try Hong Kong or Vietnam. If you miss studying GCSE German, consider moving to Germany and picking that language back up. Whatever you’re interested in, now is the time to go out and get it.
As well as pursuing your interests, living abroad can give you a second language, giving you a competitive edge if you decide to return and look for jobs as a graduate. But even if you don’t feel fluent in your second language, don’t underestimate the valuable communication skills you have gained from the experience. By habitually interacting with people who don’t share your mother tongue you’ll become a much clearer communicator, easily tuning in to natural cues about whether you’re being understood by the person you’re talking to. When applied to your own language, this gives strong, flexible communication skills that are essential for a business setting.
Maybe you’ve just graduated and you’re not sure where your interests lie and what’s important to you. In that case, temporary expatriation may be for you. Being dumped into a new country is hard – you have no friends and supporting structure around you – but it gives you an exciting opportunity to find out what you really want. You will have to go out and find new friends, who you may be surprised to discover are very different from your old friends. You will start to form new routines and instead of going to your usual pub on a Friday night you might find yourself at beat poetry nights or art exhibition openings. By taking yourself away from your normal friends and routines, you can work out what is really important to you and where you might want to go in your life.
From these changing routines you’ll have some interesting life experiences that make you stand out from the crowd. You’ll always be the one with an awesome story to tell, whether it’s about the time you went to a boat party on the Seine, that strange food you had but have no idea what it was or that time you participated in a dancing flash mob in front of the Statue of Liberty. And it’s not just good for making friends – interviewers will be keen to hear about the experiences you had abroad and how they changed you as a person.
Because living abroad isn’t always about partying, it can get very hard and lonely at times. When your best friend cancels on your Skype date because they’ve got tickets to go and see that indie band that you love it can easily leave you feeling left out. Getting through the hard times will help you become a stronger person, more able to deal with the loops that life can throw at you. It’ll encourage problem-solving skills when you’re stuck in an unknown town late at night and barely speak the language. Ultimately, it gives you the strength to say, “Hey, I did something that was really hard and it rocked.” That’s an empowering feeling that can give you confidence when you return to your roots.
So if you want to gain valuable life experience, think about what living abroad could do for you. If you’re an undergraduate, see if your university offers an Erasmus scheme, which can allow you to study abroad for part of your degree. If you have already graduated, think about work placements that will offer you the chance to live abroad. Alternatively, many young people teach English abroad, either as part of an organisation or through individual methods, such as becoming an au pair. Even if you can’t afford to take a holiday-style gap year, working your way through exploring another country can give you a unique set of skills and a refreshing perspective on life.