Studying or living abroad for a month, or two, or twelve, is an experience of a lifetime. You learn more about yourself and the world than you ever have before, and possibly ever will again. It’s amazing, and if you ever get a chance, you should definitely take advantage of it. When you study in a foreign country with a different language, you learn how to. . .
1. Pack your whole life in one suitcase
When you’ve decided to live or study abroad for a short period of time, you need to determine what you’re going to bring with you. You’ll realize you can’t take more than one or two suitcases, which will help you figure out which of your material possessions are important to you, and that most of them actually don’t really matter.
2. Find synonyms
Whether you arrive in a foreign country with previous language experience or are totally new to the language, you will have to learn how to express yourself in different ways. You’ll find synonyms for most words, and rephrase your thoughts, very often, until you master the language.
3. Get over the frustration of not being able to express exactly what you want to say
This goes along with the previous point. Some words in your native language won’t have an exact translation. It might be because the concept doesn’t exist in your new country, or because of cultural and historical differences. You’ll find the closest word possible, but you’ll have to accept that sometimes, you won’t be able to find “the right word.”
4. Have an objective perspective on your home country
There is no better way to build up some constructive criticism on your home country than getting away from it. You hear other people’s opinions about it, and you learn what the good things about your country are (aka what you are missing now that you are away), and the bad ones (AKA the things that are better in your new home).
5. Respect, understand, and appreciate other cultures
Every country is different. There is no better experience than living abroad to open your mind to other cultures and traditions. It’s often mind-blowing, personally enriching, and always a daily life lesson.
6. Enjoy having a conversation and expressing yourself without even having to think about it
If sharing a lively discussion with friends or strangers felt mindless to you when living in your home country, living abroad will make you think twice. Understanding other people and being able to contribute to a conversation in another language, almost as naturally as in your native one, will make you feel prouder than you’ve ever felt before. It’s an amazing feeling.
7. Dream in another language
This is how you know you’ve truly mastered the language: when you can even speak and understand it in your subconscious. That’s the ultimate step, and it’s awesome!
Jennifer Bourne was born and raised in France and has been addicted to New York City since she’s moved there. She likes to write about everything French in the US, her experience as an expat, and social media—her professional field. In her spare time, she likes to drink margaritas, binge watch old episodes of Friends, and complain about winter. You can follow her on Twitter at @NYC_Jen.