How Living Abroad Can Make You A Better Person

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me at c.schannauer11@gmail.com, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!

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Living abroad can be a very traumatic experience, but I am convinced it is beneficial trauma for the body as well as the soul. Before deciding to move to South Korea with my girlfriend Jenni, I have never been outside of North America. I was very anxious as to what exactly I was getting myself into, but after being here for almost two months, I can say that living abroad is an enlightening experience. Living in a foreign country has a way of humbling the egotist in all of us. When dropped into a foreign land, everything is new, everything is different, everything is odd (at first). It becomes necessary to figure out how to do and get things that you need without knowing how to ask for what you need. For those of us who have never encountered a situation such as this, it can be very distressing to know what you want, but not be able to ask for it. I am not trying to scare any of my readers, but rather tell you that you will learn to communicate with the native population. Whether this be by basic body language or learning the language, it can be done, and most likely will be done. Important side note: DO NOT underestimate the language barrier. It is very real and can be very difficult to overcome. Before moving abroad, purchase a book with important expressions. This purchase will pay for itself very quickly. Getting back on track. I must tell you at this point that the first time you are able to ask for something in another language, and get what you want, it is cause for celebration. It is a feeling of pure success! So…..how does living abroad make you a better person? I believe that living abroad forces you out of your comfort zone, and forces you to become more independent. It is no longer an option to fall back on a safety net. It is either sink or swim time. Living abroad forces you to figure things out for yourself. This makes you a much stronger person. Living abroad also helps you appreciate the small things in life. I often find myself thinking of things that I miss about home. Small things that once I took for granted, but know now that I will appreciate much more when I do finally go home to the States. For example, my family would often build a small campfire, invite family friends over, have a few drinks and hang out. When I was living in the States I enjoyed this time for sure, but I am certain now that these type of experiences are ones which cannot be replicated anywhere that I travel. I also believe that living abroad help broaden one’s horizons. Living abroad enables us to experience things that we cannot experience in our homeland. There are things we experience living abroad that can be replicated in our homeland, but are not authentic. Finally, I believe that living abroad allows us to experience a foreign culture much more thoroughly than if we were to simply vacation somewhere. Living in a foreign country allows us to interact with natives in a way that is not possible when vacationing to an area. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some tough aspects of living abroad, but overall I can say that choosing to teach in South Korea has been one of the most rewarding decisions I have made in my life thus far! If you are thinking about teaching abroad, and would like more information feel free to contact me at my e-mail: c.schannauer11@gmail.com. I would be more than happy to answer whatever questions you may have.

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