Technology has changed everything around us. Nowadays, you can do almost everything digitally, including study, making friends, talking, meeting people, etc. But I believe that one thing can never be replaced digitally, and that’s the wisdom of studying abroad in a new country and being far away from your home country.
I’m Suci, an Indonesian student and I just finished my Master’s degree in Sweden. I used to spend my days dreaming of studying abroad, making vision boards and reading lists of quotes that told about the magic of studying abroad. However, it took a while until I turned all of my dreams into reality. Moving from a country on the equator to one of the most northern countries on the globe, taught me lots of things but here are my top 5 things that I have learned from my experience of being a student overseas.
1. Understanding My Home Country Better
Being a local in my home country for almost a lifetime taught me some great skills of complaining, and thinking that the grass was always greener in other countries. Being abroad has given me the chance to see that no country in the world is perfect. And my country has different positive angles that I’ve learned to see and be proud of.
The heat that I previously complained about at home, became something that I longed for in the coldness of a Nordic country. The nosiness that I used to resent and avoid, can in certain situations be a lifeline to a lonely neighbor. My collectivist culture in Indonesia that was somehow tiring to follow, became a necessary support for me when facing the challenges of individualistic living. These challenges all reminded me of the people who’ve been there during my best and worst moments in life. Nurturing my relationship with my family and friends back home became much more important to me.
2. A Much Deeper Understanding of Other Cultures’ Perspectives
It’s not all about appreciating your home country, one of the most amazing parts of studying abroad is asking questions and adopting some of the ways of thinking of a new society.
My favorite example of when studying abroad completely changed my perspective and made me shift my beliefs is the issue of privacy.
I used to be a full-time extrovert, on the internet and real life. I had never thought about how individualistic culture can give people the full rights of their privacy and personal space. It was a new thing for me and I see it currently as one of the full benefits that I gained through studying abroad: understanding my own and other people’s privacy.
I used to take everyone’s pictures and share them online, whenever I wanted. I used to share anyone’s phone number, in case I found an important way to connect one person to another – without their consent. I used to see that the internet is the place where we should talk about our activities and share many parts of ourselves to the world.
Being abroad taught me to see that not all countries approach life in the same way. Now I secure my data, respect people’s privacy, and even remind others to do so back home.
3. I See Traveling in a New Way
My traveling journey was physically tiring, and mentally draining. Don’t get me wrong, I visited more than 15 different countries in a year. It was all fantastic and a real eye-opener which brought me to a different way of seeing the act of traveling.
Sometimes I traveled solo, and sometimes I traveled with friends. I traveled on weekends, took my homework with me, had a group call from different cities, stayed in a cheap hostel, sometimes a private airbnb, or even tried to live locally for more than 3 weeks in one of my international travel destinations. After those intense trips and nomadic lifestyle, my enjoyment of traveling plateaued. I came to realize that too much of anything isn’t good. It’s just like the Swedish way of life says: be lagom – not too much nor too little – just enough.
What is traveling all about? Why do we need traveling? By exploring places and answering those questions, I started to understand traveling in a different light. I learned the importance of hospitality and tourism management. I learned that by being a tourist, understanding local perspectives and needs is important. And most importantly I found that when you really take time to understand the country you’re in you can find a whole new way of life. That’s exciting but it’s also challenging.
4. Embracing People’s Differences
When you study abroad the first thing you might notice are the many differences between people. But in a weird way you also start to see that all of these differences are also universal – people in many ways are the same everywhere. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to really understand people from different culture backgrounds and when you make friends, you learn to embrace people’s perfections alongside their flaws.
This blessing of knowing many people from many cultural backgrounds taught me to understand myself better, and the importance of deepening my soft-skills in order to thrive in any situation. Other than the hard-skills that I gained from being in an international university, I believe that these all invaluable experiences have added a lot of new perspectives and values into my personal development.
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