Ways that I’ve benefitted from spending time abroad:
- Independence: Spending significant time in time-zones vastly different from that of my parents’ has allowed me to develop into my own person. Without their nearness, I have become more independent, resourceful, and capable. I also now have my own aspirations, hopes, dreams, views, and opinions.
- Name Brands: I’ve become far less concerned with which brand of clothing, shoes, handbag, etc, I or anyone else is wearing. Though as Americans we may think our brands have a global presence (and many do), American clothing brands mean far less overseas than they do at home. Like any young girl in the US, I used to care who was sporting which designer brand but after spending time in Europe and realizing that brands can and do change their image across countries, the whole concept seemed far more fluid. Especially in Asia, where the same factory can produce for multiple labels and there is such a proliferation of brands and knock-offs of brands its nearly impossible to tell what’s real and what’s fake, it doesn’t seem to matter to me or anyone else. As long as you’re smartly dressed, in quality clothes, that fit you properly, it doesn’t matter to me. Its actually quite a relief to not be a brand whore and instead just enjoy shopping for clothes because of their style and affordability.
- Calmed mind: As someone who always had 50 things running around in her mind telling her to keep busy and do the next thing, before going abroad, I could never relax. However, with the change of pace I encountered in Europe, particularly the lifestyle of the Spanish, I slowly was able to calm my mind and just enjoy being. Lazy afternoons at a cafe, people watching and enjoying the setting used to be painful as my mind kept telling me, ‘you’re wasting time, get busy.’ However, now I feel this is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon. The appreciative nature of traveling also helped this as my sole purpose was to see, enjoy, and appreciate the sites, people, culture, and cuisine.
- English: In going abroad and learning about global business, I’ve learned that English is the language of commerce and beyond that, it is fundamentally important to traveling. English is the common language between people from Japan and South America or between the Thais and the Europeans. No other language is as widely spoken as a second language. For example, there are more people studying English in China than in Great Britain. I believe this random fact speaks to the importance of English as the accepted global language. Therefore, I’m glad to have mastered English.
- Languages: While English may be the accepted 2nd language on a global scale and ensure basic communication between diverse groups of people, its nothing like the sincere appreciation a native has for a foreigner who genuinely attempts to speak their language. Learning a second language offers a far more profound experience than simply ‘getting by’ with English. In speaking both Spanish and Chinese in countries who call these their native languages, I’ve been appreciated more, treated better, and altogether had a better experience in the country. Because of this I know the experience can only get better by becoming completely fluent in a second language. As such, I hope during my time in China I will become fluent, as there’s no better way to learn a language than to live in the country and speaking everyday with native speakers. Already my Chinese has improved significantly since arriving.
- Cosmopolitan: Through going abroad, I’ve become more sophisticated, educated, and worldly. My geographical knowledge has improved immensely, I have a much broader understanding of various issues, I’ve learnt from diverse perspectives, and I’m more conscious of living in a global society. My roommate from Suzhou enlightened me to many preferences of the Chinese (worth another post entirely). A conversation I had with Spanish soccer players made me realize the disgust they had for President Bush, especially in the aftermath of the 2004 Madrid subway bombings. It was really an eye-opener to find out how deeply Americans were disliked at every level of society (at least in northern Spain).
- Friendships: By spending time in other countries and as others have come from far away countries to the US, we have all built friendships that span the globe. I am trule grateful to have friends in as far away places as Ireland, Brazil, Qatar, the Netherlands, Singapore, and many more countries and locales. Its an amazing thing to be able to call such a diverse group of people my friends.
- Aesthetics: Through seeing so many different places, I’ve come to appreciate nature, architecture, and other beautiful things. Seeing the diverse forms of architecture worldwide, I have fallen in love with architecture. Seeing nature in its many diverse forms has led me to appreciate nature in its infinite, timeless beauty. And by seeing some of the most picturesque places on earth, I can truly say I can appreciate beauty. Instead of thinking everything looks the same, I appreciate diversity and diverse forms of beauty and these I seek to capture on my camera. In seeing many things and places, I’ve come to understand aesthetics, which brings joy to my world, and through the more appealing photographs I’m able to take canalso inspire others to seek out beauty in their own world.
Well, initially I sought to write about some of the more surprising ways I’ve benefitted from going abroad, but the list turned very conventional, so I’ll stop and just let you imagine the many ways I have and anyone else could also benefit from going beyond the borders of their own country.