So I'm an Asian girl, born and grew up in Asia. I've been living and studying and working in Germany for almost 9 years now. My time is almost over, and I have mixed feelings about it. I'm sad, because I've finally started to enjoy life here. But I'm also very thankful for the opportunity I've had, which had allowed me to grow in so many different ways and has made me a better person. Ok, done with the "oscar acceptance speech", lol.
I want to share with you some advantages of spending some time living abroad, as well as some DOs and DON'Ts. I think every young adult would definitely have something to gain by living alone in a foreign country for at least a few months.
This take is not about wanderlust, this take is about rediscovering who you are and enriching yourself through hard work and hardships, and at the same time getting to know another culture in a quite intimate way.
Here we go.
Advantage #1: Independence
Duh. I was anything but an independent teenager growing up. My dad did everything for me, never involved me in things. Living on my own made me grow up and become an adult.
You learn to manage your own life, open up and manage your bank account, deal with official city business, prolong your passports and visas, etc.
But, in order to gain this independence, here's the key requirement:
Rely on yourself, and if you're like me, who's sometimes disorganized, rely on your planner. Actually write everything there, where do you have to do, who you should meet, at what date and time, what you should bring, etc. Go to those places ALONE.
Always have people accompany you. You might have relatives or tons of friends in the new city, but don't always ask them to go with you. In the first month, it's OK. But don't keep doing that. Learn to do things BY YOURSELF. If you're confused, ask the information or just the strangers in that place.
Advantage #2: Language Skills
- LEARN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE! - Personally, I think it's disrespectful of the locals if you want to spend a couple of months living in their country and not even making any effort to speak their language. Everyone likes it if they're spoken to in their native tongue!
- Hang out with the locals, or with international folks, but talk using the local language
- SPEAK, SPEAK, SPEAK, SPEAK! Babble on! If someone corrects you, say "thank you, how is the right way to say it?"
- Ask people to correct your mistakes when speaking. Over here, people usually don't want to seem rude or be like a language snob or grammar nazi, so they mostly hold back from correcting me. But if I say "please correct me if I said something grammatically incorrect," most would actually do it.
- Listen to the local radio, watch TV, read books in the local language. This should improve your listening skills, get you acquainted with the slangs, and in general improve your passive language skills. Children's books are mostly easy and short enough for language learners. Mangas will also do. I used to read Donald Duck back in my first years of living in Germany XD
- Take some language courses.
- Find a language exchange partner. Unless you have some very exotic native language, chances are, someone wants to know your language. Meet once a week for 2 hours, spend one hour speaking your language, and the other hour speaking the other person's language. I've actually found a friendship through this.
- Clam up because you're too afraid to make a mistake. Being able to understand the language is cool, but you HAVE TO SPEAK too, if you also want to master the language beyond passive understanding. The locals will understand that you as a foreigner are still learning their language, and they will appreciate your efforts. So grow some thick skin and babble on!
- ONLY HANG WITH PEOPLE FROM YOUR OWN COUNTRY! This is disastrous if you're trying to learn a new language. I've made this mistake for years, and I have observed people who only relies on English in their daily lives. Both thumbs down! DON'T BE LAZY! You can't finish a marathon if you don't train yourself!
Advantage #3: Getting to know different cultures
DO: Get out and mingle with people, especially the locals. If you're not that brave yet, grab a friend (just one!) who is a foreigner as well, and go mingle together with the locals. Observe their ways, their likes and dislikes.
Mingle with international people as well, ask them about their cultures, be interested. Have a cooking party. Invite them to your birthday, where you cook your country's food, and ask them to make some desert or drinks or snacks from their country. This could be easily done if you live in a student dorm.
TRY EVERY FOOD ONCE! What doesn't kill you makes your stomach tougher!
DON'T: Again, stick to people from your own culture. This might be easier for you, because you're among your own people, but you won't grow. You can still do this, if you're homesick and you miss food from your own country, then you can get together with people from your own culture to have "ein Stück heimat", as the Germans say. A little piece of home. But don't do this all too often.
Advantage #4: Personal Growth
All of the above things are of course, also important for personal growth. But for me personally, what contributed the most to my personal growth was the numerous jobs I've had.
- TRY OUT DIFFERENT (SHITTY) JOBS.
- If you're good with people: Waitressing, working in the food industry in general, babysitting, tutoring (if you're good at one or more school subjects), telemarketing, be an extra in a TV shoot, be a sales promotion girl (if your looks meet the requirements), customer service, hotel receptionist, cashier, teach English , be a receptionist at a doctor's office (if you have some medical background),........ The opportunity is endless.
- If you're NOT good with people: clean homes or offices, work at a warehouse, work at the post office delivering males and packages, do computer repairs, help people move, cook at hotels or restaurants, cook at people's homes (here, some parents hire someone to cook lunch for their children when they come home from school),....... The possibilities are also endless.
- NITPICK JOBS.
Look, some jobs I've mentioned above are shitty alright. Shitty pay, hard work. There were times when I always wanted to cry when I woke up, because my job and the pay is so shitty. My body ached 24 hours a day, and there's never enough time to heal. But there have been some things I've discovered about myself while doing those shitty jobs:
1. I've discovered that if I HAD TO, I can push my own strength to places where I never knew I could be. If you HAD to get something done, and there's no one to help you, you'll somehow be able to push yourself farther than you thought was possible. And I was talking about physical strength.
2. I've learned to never take any good thing in a job for granted. I've done what must have been the worst job in my whole life. It was in my opinion, mighty close to slavery. So now I've learned to not complain when there's nothing to do at my own job, when I have to lift heavy things for only 20 minutes, when my job today is boring. I've had worse, my job today takes me nowhere to my breaking point, and I'm glad for that.
3. I've learned to be humble. In Asia, maids are seen as a "lower-class" person. Some people actually treat their maids as if they're lower-class humans. Same thing with unskilled jobs. In Asia, my family belonged to the middle class. We could afford a maid, and can sometimes afford a masseur. In Germany, as a student, I can only do unskilled jobs. So yes, I have worked as a maid and as unskilled laborer. My mom wept when I told her that, but the good thing is, my former bosses always treated me (the maid) with respect, they paid me quite fair, never raised their voices. So I've not only learned to be humble, but also to respect everyone from every class of society.
So there you go. Thanks for reading this quite long take, guys!
I meant each and every word I said. Also about doing shitty jobs. It can turn a spoiled little princess into a humble young woman. I swear. All you need is determination.
I guess when people think about "going abroad", they think of travelling. Seeing the nature and the culture, but as an observer. Well through this take I wanted to say that there are WAY more advantages on actually LIVING IN the culture, joining the locals in becoming part of the culture. Not just observing. And the job world is good for that! It's also a great way to meet people, and maybe some special guy/girl? You never know!
I encourage everyone 18 years and above to think about spending some months abroad. Not just for partying, but get a job! Work! Don't bring too much money from home, and even if your parents can afford it, try to earn your own living, just like the locals!
I swear, it would be a great experience that enrichens you and you'll have something you're proud of to tell your kids and grandkids. It might just make you into a better, new and improved YOU!