On my journey to find myself, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study, work, and live abroad. Like many other international students, I left with many hopes. I wondered what I would learn and who I would become while studying abroad. These hopes did not exclusively come from an advanced education system and beneficial opportunities, but also from exposure to new experiences and perspectives. They are things that I wouldn’t have been able to consider if I hadn’t studied abroad and lived independently.
1. Loneliness is not scary
You may be lucky to find a group of friends like the one in “How I Met Your Mother”, or you might not. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay with my close friends for a long time.
Life is always changing, so it’s hard to stay with your loved ones at every point in your life. If you remain focused on your work and nurture new relationships, you will not feel lonely.
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2. Take every opportunity
You won’t always be comfortable when you live in a foreign country. Sometimes, you won’t have family or supportive acquaintances to rely on. Rather, you will only be able to rely on yourself. On the brighter side, you are completely free to do what you want. However, that might mean that you have to work three times as hard as your competition, whether it be with native students or other international students.
Opportunities and challenges are part of the path to maturity and success. Don’t be afraid. Remember that before a great opportunity, almost everyone is influenced by uncertainty. All that you can do is prepare well and seize the opportunity when it presents itself.
3. Keep an eye out for the little things
There are cities that live fast and cities that live slow. They are different ways of life. You might stumble upon French people sipping coffee at a small shop as they read a newspaper early in the morning, Italians huddling and chatting in a bar in the evening, or a couple of grandparents taking walks in the park on a Saturday afternoon.
If you go out to a restaurant or for coffee, it may take a long time to order. That’s normal. Enjoying life sometimes means watching time pass by. It means taking in all the little moments, for all that they are, and for what they aren’t. Perhaps it’s those little things that will create memories that never fade away and will remain with you as you age.
It might be breathing in the light summer breeze during an early morning stroll in the park , the aromatic scent of flowers, the bittersweet, binding hugs at the airport gate, or the twilight afternoon resting on the mountain as the sun sets. Those little moments are the stories that I talk about whenever anyone asks me about studying abroad.
4. Appreciate the finite things
There are people, such as classmates or kind strangers who helped me on the road, that I knew I probably wouldn’t see again. There are always promises: the “we will meet again”, social media exchanges, friending on Facebook”, but long-distance friendships are sadly difficult to maintain.
But even if these moments pass quickly, time doesn’t make those treasures any less valuable. I’ve learned that I have to live my life in the present in order to live to the fullest.
Sometimes as I am watching the sky set on my way home from work, I think of the moments that I can never return to: the eagerness of coming to a new place for the first time or the happiness of gathering with a whole group of friends. Living fully in the present enables you to live without regrets.
Through studying abroad, we gain personal experiences and subjectivity. The world is large and profound. It can make you curious and even motivate you. So go out. Know that it may seem difficult. But enjoy it. Know that your understanding and experiences can grow and deepen. Studying abroad in a foreign country can be a nightmare, a dream, or a life-changing opportunity. It just depends on how you embrace it.
This article is written by Nga Le.