4 Things I Have Learned in 4 Months of Living Abroad

We are already the majority of the way through November, which means another month spent in Prague is now in the books for me. I have been doing a lot of thinking about what exactly I have learned in 16 weeks of being here. How have my views on things changed? What have I noticed? How is this life different than my life at home in the U.S.? So, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and realizations.

1. People are people.
We live in a very diverse world. That's no secret. We live in different places, we look different physically, we speak different languages, and we believe in different things. However, we are all tied together by the fact that we are living, breathing, feeling human beings. Despite our cultures, we all want to live a life that revolves around happiness and health, and we should all have the right to do that. This is something that I have always believed in, but being in the middle of a different culture has only solidified that belief.

2. Experiences > things.
As I have discussed before, I got rid of the majority of my possessions before I moved. And, I obviously didn't bring an overabundance of stuff with me to Europe. The only stuff that I have bought since being here includes necessities for my flat, and a few pieces of winter clothing, which have been mostly thrifted. (My flatmate Ephram and I are also living proof that you can survive with a SINGLE pan to cook everything in.) In addition to that, my living spaces has also downsized significantly. I went from having my own bedroom and bathroom, to sharing a pretty small space with another person.

Every now and then, I miss some of my material things and my own space. But then I remember...I'm living in the heart of Europe. I would live in a cardboard box in order to continue living and traveling here. "Stuff" is optional...memories like the ones I have been making are unforgettable.

3. Language is important...but it's also not.
Ok, just stick with me while I explain this. First off, I am a language teacher. Teaching English as a FOREIGN language has certainly made me realize the importance that is placed upon communication across cultures. Secondly, I am living in a country where I do not speak the language, and learning it is a very slow process for me because of the levelness of difficulty. Obviously, the easiest way to interact with someone is through a conversation using a mutual language. Therefore, it is important.

However, I have also discovered that body language and facial expressions can just as effectively help to understand people, as well as be understood. If communication through language is a bit rocky, a smile, or a laugh, or "speaking with your hands" can often help solidify what you are trying to say, or what you are attempting to hear. This has been effective with my beginner level students, as well as in everyday conversations with people I don't know.

4. Being afraid of the world is pointless.
When it comes to planet Earth, the media is really good at painting this picture of a world full of all things unknown and frightening. And you know, there ARE things that we should be cautious of. There are situations that we should avoid. But, the bad things are no reason to avoid travel completely. This vast world is here for us to enjoy. Travel is a way for us to grow. If you have the desire to see new places and do new things, do it. Do your research, and be aware of everything you should know, but do it. Potential danger is everywhere, even in your own comfortable town or city. Don't let fear hinder your spirit for travel.

Four months is not a very long period of time, but I can honestly say that I feel like I've learned so much. There is a lot more for me to learn, and I look forward to encountering those new lessons. Do you live abroad? Do you enjoy travel? What lessons have you learned?
Kim@Snug Harbor said...

Great post. My niece is leaving in 3 weeks to move from Denver to Ireland. One of her concerns as well is leaving with practically no possessions. Fortunately her boyfriend has already secured a furnished apartment for them, so that will be a huge help. If you have any other tips or thoughts, please share them.

Vicky Hunt said...

I don't think you know how incredibly proud I am of you! You amaze this old Mama of yours. From your writing to your wanderlust, to your bravery at moving across the world with nothing but a suitcase and not knowing a soul! I could not be more proud of you. I love you all the way from Florida to Prague and can't wait to see you and this beautiful city you are calling home these days.

Always, Mama

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Miranda, you are such a great young woman. I love that you have learned some lessons about life that many of us are still trying to learn. Travel does broaden your life in many ways. Different cultures, languages and economies are so often not experienced here in the USA. Keep traveling, enjoying life and learning these amazing lessons of life.

Bry said...

One thing I learned: you won't like every place you go.

Going to another country for most people is one of two things: a romantic dream or an uncomfortoable plane ride.

I studied abroad in Paris. PARIS, omg!...right? Well, what was supposed to be a year long endeavor turned into five months.

BUT, as much as it was one of the most difficult things I've done in my life, I learned more about myself in that five months than I have in the past ten years. Something not everyone would like very much.

I have fallen in love with many countries and cities I've seen. Many I plan on moving to for a while.But I've also fallen out of love with the ideas of places before having actually gone there. I learned my lesson.

The beauty about traveling? It gives you the truth. The truth about the danger, the safety, the glamour, the despondence, all wrapped up in a language you don't speak (even if its a version of English) and mirrored within the culture of the people, the architecture, the environment. It makes you grow in more ways than you can expect or prepare for, and whether you're having the time of your life or just want to go home, you will always realize it was the best thing for you.

Proof in the pudding?... I plan on giving Paris another chance in the future. One of my majors is French, after all...

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