9 months living abroad. Crazy, right? People tell me all the time how brave I must be, how they wish they could do it, and how inspirational I am. While getting comfortable in a new culture and foreign language are huge changes in themselves, I’ve changed more in my American life than I expected.
I’m more motivated
I always say stereotypes are rooted in truth. That being said, I was the stereotypically lazy American. I always did just enough to get by. Living abroad changed that. Day to day life is exciting and adventurous – you can’t escape it! I gained a new thirst for life, and got in the habit of seeking out excitement and adrenaline.
I seek challenge
While on that subject, challenge was always something that I avoided. Living abroad, I’ve come to see how easy the American life is, and it’s become boring. Now, sitting in front of the TV and skating through life isn’t enough for me – I did a pretty decent job of conquering a foreign culture, so what else can I accomplish?
I’m more aware of culture
I’ve written already about how I appreciate my own culture more after leaving it. Living abroad also did another thing: it gave me an objective appreciation for culture. I can see how different cultures aren’t actually all that different; yes, we Americans are known to be ignorant, but there are stupid people no matter where you go. I see cultural quirks that people don’t realize, even in my own culture.
I’m generally a pretty quiet, introverted person. Depending on my mood, I might not do very well in social situations. However, after living abroad, where I had to confront (and conquer) both my social awkwardness and a language barrier, coming back home and talking to people in English is a piece of cake! I have no excuses to shy away from conversation now, and being reminded of this new-found skill every once in a while is a real confidence booster!