10+1 Things that living abroad taught me

When you are by yourself, you are more observant.You pay more attention to details, to sounds, to feelings and everything around you. You have more time to deeply fall into your own thoughts and just sit in quiet for a long time and watch things happen around you.

  1. 1. How to be okay with being alone

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    I used to think that going somewhere alone is the scariest and worst thing possible. Traveling alone scared me and I never really understood people who swore by it. But there is a beautiful side to it that now I understand more. When you are by yourself, you are more observant. You pay more attention to details, to sounds, to feelings and everything around you. You are more receptive and more open to the outside world and to start conversations with others. You have more time to deeply fall into your own thoughts and just sit in quiet for a long time and watch things happen around you. The saying is true: The quiet screams the truth. You will find that sitting down by the beach in the morning or finding a cute coffee shop somewhere and spend some time alone while observing your environment is one of the most peaceful things to do.

    2. How to make the first step to meet new people and even develop friendships

    When you go somewhere with a friend, a partner or a family member, you don’t necessarily feel the need to develop new friendships or meet others to hang out with. But when you are alone somewhere new and you spent enough time thinking and paying attention to yourself, you will feel the need to belong somewhere. I am an introvert but being away from home for so long thought me how to reach out to others or when they reach out to me, how to be more open to go, spend time with them and get to know them better. You will meet people and realize the friendship might not work out in the long run and it just dies out eventually but sometimes you will meet sweet people who will be worth the effort and you will develop long lasting friendships.

    3. How to adjust to life situations and how to have fun no matter what

    At age 26 I decided to go back to school and get a master’s degree. I moved from Arizona where I spent 5 years to Wisconsin which is almost like a whole new country. Different weather, different people, from small city to big city, the only thing that was the same was the language. After living in an apartment with my own kitchen, I moved to a single dorm room that was as small as possible. I had a hard time adjusting to cafeteria food again and realizing that I got to live in that tiny “hole” for two years. But after a little bit of self-pity I realized that I can turn things around by making that place my own and making healthier choices in the cafeteria. So I rearranged the furniture and I decorated the room as well as I could. It was amazing. I created the coziest little hole possible and I loved going back there and to hang out there. I could have hated my life for two more years and could have had a terrible time there, but I decided to have fun with it and it made it a whole lot easier on me and on my family too.

    4. How to accept, understand and respect others with different cultural backgrounds

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    I have always been very respectful and open to others but to be honest, when living back home, I never really spent long days with others from different countries. I was mostly around Hungarians and maybe the only thing that could come up as a difference to cause stress is how they layer their stacked potato dish. But moving to the USA and living in a college environment I run into lots of different people from all over the world: people from China, India, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, France, Spain, Canada, USA, Hawaii (I know it is USA but still so different that I think it deserves its own separate listing), Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia etc. … so many different people from so many different backgrounds. I had to learn to cooperate with others without bothering their good old routine. I had to adjust the border lines and had to realize that there are different ways to do the things  that I have been doing for 18+ years…and sometimes you just got to admit that other ways of doing things might be even worth a try. You pick up habits you have never had before and you will realize that your South American friends soon will use a great variety of Hungarian cuss words like Hungarian is their first language.

    5. Being homesick is worse than I expected

    I have awesome days and sometimes I have terribly hard ones. It is like a rollercoaster. Homesickness can hurt like no other but eventually you will find ways to make it easier on yourself. Being away doesn’t mean you won’t see your family ever again, and luckily technology makes it a whole lot easier to keep in touch with the loved ones. I learned how to find times throughout the day to talk to my family and friends, and downloaded every possible phone app that would make that easier. Thinking about it, it is ridiculously easy to keep in touch nowadays, I don’t know what would I do if I had to do this 50 years ago.

    6. Time and budget management

    Living abroad teaches you a couple things and I believe every single of those things is a very good skill to have in life. Even though I am homesick sometimes, I would do this again, because I feel like this experience made me a better and stronger person in many ways. Two things I learned quickly while going to college is how to manage my time between school, practice, homework, conditioning and talking to family and friends back home and still have some time to socialize and hang out with friends. I learned to schedule my days better, to be more effective when getting things done and how to stop doing things that added no value to my life such as watching a gazillion TV dramas.

    7. How to ask for help and not be ashamed of it

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    When you grow up somewhere, you kind of just grew into that environment. Everything is familiar, everything is the same, you know what to expect of people’s reactions, you know where things are. Then you move 9000 km away and you have no clue of anything around you whatsoever. I barely spoke the language when I got here so it was very hard for me to go up to anyone and try to explain what I needed help with. It was easier to not do it. But eventually I realized that I just have to get over the fear, go up to people and ask. Ask for help, ask for directions, and ask for explanations. And to be honest, I quickly realized how rewarding it really is. First of all, everyone knew within 2 seconds that I was foreign and they were more patient and helpful with me. Second of all, I felt a whole lot better about myself because I stepped out of my comfort zone and was not afraid to ask. I met new people, had nice conversations and I knew or at least had a better idea of what I was doing. You will run into jerks too, but hey those people are the ones that you get to share your funny stories about on Facebook or on your blog 😀 Don’t be afraid to ask, just think about it this way: if you were at home and someone felt lost and came up to you asking for your help? Wouldn’t you help?

    8. How to be okay with not being okay all the time. Being happy is a choice

    Living in Wisconsin was not easy at the beginning. Just when I felt like Arizona was home I had to pack up again and move to another place again, where I didn’t know anybody. But I chose to be happy, and I decided that I will enjoy my time. I met wonderful people there (I think people in the Midwest are the nicest ever so that was easy), we had a great time with my class and hall mates, and the athletic teams too. Of course there were harder days, but that is normal. You don’t have to be 100% all the time. It is all about the attitude, how you approach things and how you handle people and things during those crappy days. If you are nice and don’t yell the head off of everyone on those tougher days, you will see that people will be more helpful. I miss those good old Wisconsin times now dearly, the great hall parties and hang outs and can’t wait to visit soon. I could have been miserable for two years but I left thinking that I created one of my best memories ever in those two years and that Wisconsin will always be close to my heart.

    9. Things and people in my life are not permanent, don’t take anything/anyone for granted

    This is good and bad at the same time. Change is hard and sometimes it can be heart breaking. I learned to never take anything for granted. I learned to appreciate what I have at the moment and love what was given to me. I wake up every morning, thanking that I am still here, healthy and thankful for all the wonderful people in my life. Living far away from home really opened my eyes, and made me realize who my true friends are. Who are the ones sticking by my side no matter what and who are the ones eventually dropping out. It really made me love and appreciate the ones that love me even more and it really made me thankful for what I have. Appreciate the car you have, it takes you from A to B. Appreciate the family you still have because you don’t know how much time you have left with them. Appreciate your friends who love you no matter what. Wanting to have better and more, and be better is great and that should never change, but in the process don’t forget to stop for a second to appreciate how lucky you truly are.

    10. How to stand up for myself

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    Oh, I learned this quick and I learned it the hard way. At the beginning I was a little slower to process things, especially because of the new language and everybody who I met thought about me that way. Sometimes I couldn’t stand up for myself, not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t. But then I got more comfortable, I started speaking the language better, I reacted to things faster and there was one day when I got to stand up for myself for not being treated the right way. And this is when everyone was shocked and surprised not knowing who this new person was. They said I changed and I am not as nice anymore. Which of course was not true haha I just didn’t let everyone walk all over me anymore…it cost me couple friends, but that is okay. The ones I lost, shouldn’t be in my life anyways, so things work out the way they are supposed to. But I like this me more, I like that I don’t need to please everyone anymore. My friendships are way more meaningful now.

    10+1. How to have a good night sleep in the most extreme positions on a plane or at the airport

    Flying back and forth between Hungary and the USA taught me some fun ways to survive the long hours. I am lucky because I am not too picky and can fall asleep pretty easily at night but sometimes even I struggled on the flights at the beginning. But eventually I learned how to sleep while I am curled up in a ball, one leg crossed over the other, head down on the mini table in front of me, pillow by the lower back and while the blanket served as a blanket, pillow and head cover at the same time. (Obviously, these circumstances will change when I will start traveling 1st class hahah)

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