Living abroad was an enriching life experience that has changed me in so many ways. After four years spent in Holland and on my way back to Bulgaria, I’m contemplating why everyone should live in a foreign country in their twenties, even for a while.
So, here I am. My extra-large suitcases are packed; my first solo apartment is now completely empty. After four years of living abroad, it’s time to go home.
In the past four years, I’ve lived in the Netherlands (and for a few months in Spain) while doing my Bachelor’s studies. When I first arrived in Utrecht, I was a naïve nineteen year old girl who didn’t even know how to cook pasta. I was super shy and totally embarrassed when I had to talk to strangers. I was living in a shell, that wasn’t exactly made for me.
Living abroad changed me in so many ways.
You should read my letter to my 5-year younger self to be able to understand everything I’ve gone through and all beautiful transformations that’ve happened within.
I’ve become (a little bit) more organized. I’ve become more independent. I’ve learned to take care of myself. I’ve learned to rely on my senses and make my own decisions. I’ve learned how to love who I am and stand behind my beliefs. Oh, and I’ve become so much more open-minded and empathetic towards others. Meeting dozens of people from any point of the globe has taught me that we are all different, we’re all beautiful in our own ways and no culture is better than the other.
Are you thinking about living abroad?
If you’re contemplating whether to take that opportunity to live abroad, here’s a little something to help you decide. I won’t tell you it’s easy, because it is not. Being a stranger to a world that’s completely different from yours can be really, really tough.
I’ve had so many times when I’ve felt alone. Loneliness is an inevitable part of living abroad. I have met a lot of Bulgarian people in the Netherlands but I strongly advise you against hanging out with guys from your culture only. You choose not to live in your country so that you can experience more than you would be able to back home. Connecting with somewhat weird, diversely cultured individuals is one of those experiences that broaden your horizons. Feeling lonely at times is worth it and can even be a useful lesson. Solitude builds resilience. You shouldn’t be afraid of being alone.
Truth is, living abroad is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some of my friends gave up and choose the comfort of their home. That’s perfectly okay and I don’t judge them. They gave a try to the expat lifestyle but it just didn’t suit them. The point is, however, they did try. If you never overcome your fears and dive into the unknown, you will never know. So yeah, be brave and buy that ticket.
Here’s why you should live abroad—even for a while.
You will discover more about yourself
In the process of adapting to your new home, you will surely discover more about yourself. I’ve learned, for example, that I can handle things I’ve never thought I would; and that I truly enjoy speaking with people I don’t know. ME! The girl who’d be too shy to utter a word to a stranger. I’ve also discovered my love for traveling and exploring new places. PS. One thing I never learned: telling right from left. You can imagine how happy my friends are when I have to give them directions.
You will become more spontaneous
Living abroad will teach you how to be spontaneous. Inevitably, things won’t go according to plan, no matter how organized you are. You will learn how to accept and embrace spontaneity, and how to make the most out of every situation. If you’d ask me how many times I’ve had to adapt to things not going according to plan, I wouldn’t be able to count them. That’s what people call living in the moment. It is one of the many skills you’ll learn during your time abroad.
Which takes me to my next point…
You will develop a whole new set of skills
Having to adapt to new situations is just one of the vital skills you’ll develop when living abroad. You’ll realize you’re capable of doing anything, anywhere, on your own. You’ll see that asking for help is okay, too. Living in a foreign country will help you build the confidence you need to network, and will enhance your decision-making skills. Those and many more will make it easier to find a job back home. Improved employability is just one of the benefits you’ll gain from living abroad.
You will become more independent and open-minded
When you know no one, you really don’t have a choice, do you? You have to handle your challenges on your own and make your own decisions. On the other hand, you’ll meet people from all corners of the world that will surely broaden your perspective. If you keep an open mind, the world can offer you tons of opportunities to learn. Your new connections can help you try new things and thrive in a multicultural environment.
You will start thinking out-of-the-box
Discovering a new piece of the world will help you think more creatively. When you see things from a different perspective, you will transform your own. By letting go of what’s familiar, you will create space for new learnings. You will start noticing all the amazing opportunities that lie within your grasp. And now, you’ll know, you’ll have the courage to embrace the unknown.