Thoughts for returning exchange students, travellers and expats.
“You’ll become so independent!” “You’re going to understand and explore other cultures!” “It will be a character-forming time of your life.”
Yeah yeah, we all had certain expectations of what we would gain from travelling before catching that plane.
And while these rewards for studying, working, or travelling abroad are invaluable, beautiful gifts, your time abroad teaches you some more unexpected lessons:
How to communicate without words
Reading body language and expressing yourself with hand gestures have saved your skin more times than you can count.
How much you value your homeland
There are just some things that you can only find at home, whether it’s certain food, weather, or people. #homesweethome
How to enjoy exotic foods (and cook them)
Perhaps you weren’t a fussy eater before your time abroad, but you certainly aren’t now! Your ‘I’ll-try-anything-once’ attitude has become routine.
How to identify accents and nationalities
The likelihood is that you’ve spent a lot of time with other exchange or international students or expats and as a result, you can spot a German from a mile away, or hear the twinge of a Polish accent…
How much your drinks preferences have changed
Europe is split into coffee zones and tea zones, and into vodka / wine/ beer areas. You thought you were just trying to be integrated, but even when you get back home you have a beverage identity crisis.
How to survive (and flourish) without a guidebook
During your time abroad, you’ve lived your most memorable experiences ‘off the beaten track’. You’ll never go back to normal tourist behaviours.
How to be 100% spontaneous
Taking leaps of faith is part of travelling. You can plan and schedule as much as you like, but in the end, you have realised that you have to allow yourself to go with the flow.
How stereotypical of your home country you are
It may seem obvious, but people will recognise where you are from simple from the way you act, the way you dress, and your tastes. You never even knew that those things were associated with your nation!
How to figure out what items are really important to you
Travelling will always involve leaving things behind. You quickly learn to sort your belongings into ‘things you can live without’ and ‘essentials’. You’ve surprised yourself with the things you find important.
How little of your own country you have actually visited
It seems that everyone else you’ve met knows your country better than you. It’s easy to forget to appreciate domestic travel!
Homesickness can be felt about somewhere that is not necessarily ‘home’
You knew you’d have fun, but you didn’t know how deeply you would connect with your temporary home and ‘family’ abroad. Reverse homesickness is real.
Were you surprised that your time abroad taught you these unusual lessons? What else did travelling teach you?
If you’re not ready to return home yet, or you’re planning another trip abroad, find a job or internship through Europe Language Jobs to give you an excuse to get back on the road and keep learning!