This blog is written by Evimary Pinero, SWE global ambassador and graduate student at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
I’ve always wanted to experience living abroad but it wasn’t until I made the move that I realized how big of an impact it made on my personal and professional life. Now any person I come across who tells me they are interested in moving abroad will hear they should not give it a second thought. I would go as far as saying that living abroad is necessary for exponential growth and to become the best version of yourself.
Here are 9 reasons why living abroad will give you the opportunity to learn so much about yourself:
- Living abroad will increase your patience
This one is a bit painful to write about because it takes me back to the countless of times I waited in the wrong line, was willing to give up my firstborn for Google Translate to load, didn’t have all the required paperwork causing me to make the hour commute back home to get it. The couple times my phone died which left me stranded and lost without any money since basically everything in China is paid via WeChat or Alipay so no phone=you are screwed. Even if you find yourself in a country that speaks your native language, you will find that the way things are run can be very different. Little mundane tasks you would do back home become very challenging. All of these things will test your patience and as a result, you will find that after a while things that would easily frustrate you before may no longer faze you.
- A chance to learn a new language
Okay, so maybe the US doesn’t have the best record for the amount of people interested in learning a new language but hear me out: learning another language is one of the best investments you can make for your personal and professional life. You’d be amazed by how many doors it can open for opportunities abroad. Learning a new language is also like re-programming your brain, allowing yourself to see the world through a different lens.
- Become a better leader
So maybe the way you resolve issues, interact with people, present ideas, and lead in your home country has worked well for you so far. Have you ever thought about how’d you do if you had to lead on the global stage? Sometimes to achieve the same goals, you may have to use a different approach depending on where you are doing business or depending on where the people you are working with are from. I’ll give you one of many examples that I learned during my time abroad in China. In the US, when giving a presentation or presenting an idea, we generally tend to talk about the most important points first that eventually all tie together into a big picture. In China, it is the complete opposite; people generally focus on the big picture first and then break it down to smaller details. Living abroad will allow you to better understand the needs of your colleagues, how to come up with solutions, share your ideas, and how to lead the most effectively within other business cultures. This is especially important within an era of globalization where countries are becoming more and more connected and dependent on each other.
- Open your world to many new ideas and perspectives
This is one of my top reasons for wanting to move abroad. I love those “Wow! I never thought about it that way before!” moments — the times I discovered things I didn’t even know existed, realizing the only way you knew how to do something may not be the best way, or just better understanding why some people do things the way they do. One way may not work the best for everyone!
- Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
My mantra: growth begins outside of your comfort zone. My mom always told me if you start to feel comfortable, that’s your red flag to move on to the next thing! Just remember that leaving your comfort zone is always an opportunity for growth.
- Expand your Network
THIS!! Do I need to say more?
- You will feel more comfortable with taking risks
Leaving your home country, leaving your friends and family, leaving everything behind and sort of starting from scratch is a huge risk. History of humanity reveals it is fundamentally ingrained in us to stay within our social groups and depend on our community because for a long time, staying in our pack meant survival. It is against our nature to just…leave. But as with any risk, the rewards can be substantial, which was the case for me. This gave me a lot of confidence in myself and made me more comfortable with the idea of taking more risks in the future.
- Become more adaptable to change
This one is pretty self-explanatory. In this fast-changing world, we are constantly challenged by change. This is extremely valuable in the work and personal life and if you can adapt to life as an expat then I’m convinced you can adapt to anything!
- Heighten your global awareness
During my time abroad, my friends from the international community and I constantly compared how a lot of common issues were handled in each other’s countries. This often left me very surprised. It’s good to analyze the strengths and weaknesses from different countries and have a better idea of how we are all connected. It is one thing to look at the outside through a small window and another thing to step foot outside yourself. Ever see some bad news about something that is going on in another part of the world? Did you ever question the validity of the news or whether they were exaggerating or downplaying the situation? Media bias is a huge problem in our society today and influences how a lot of people think. Living abroad and getting exposure to other media outlets puts you in a better position to weigh in on the magnitude of different situations yourself.One last thing I want to squeeze in here. Heightening your global awareness can be very beneficial if you have a bit of an entrepreneurial bug. It can help you better understand other markets, different business cultures, the global supply chain, where there may be gaps in the market, and exposure to different business models. (Just to name a few) It’s no wonder a lot of people get business ideas while traveling or living abroad!
Well, how did I do? Did I convince you? I hope some of my insights helped you at least consider the idea. I will also say that continuing your education abroad is a great way to “get your foot in the door” if you are having a hard time finding job opportunities abroad. And there are a handful of countries that offer free tuition for international students and countless scholarship opportunities.
“If you really want something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t you’ll find an excuse.” – Jim Rohn
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