It was in the summer of 2014 that I first decided to study and live abroad. I wanted a taste of the outside world and figured that I needed to make the most out of my youth. Fast forward to 2017, I turned my back on my little town in the mountains and turned my idea into reality.
I come from a country where getting burned by the sun is as normal as it gets and riding a minivan without air conditioning and a door is the ideal form of transport. But it’s not all that bad. I realized how great living abroad is. My father once told me how he’d wish he had the opportunity to study abroad as part of his education and that I should make the most out of this opportunity. I’ve come halfway round the world for an internship, but I think the perks go beyond work experience.
I thought living abroad was supposed to be an adventure or a new chapter in life. Not necessarily fun, but more of; getting a new girlfriend or engaging in activities. Instead, I spend half my day saying, «English please?» or «Sprichst du Englisch?» as they say in Germany. I don’t completely murder the German language when I speak it and I do get my way around fairly easily, but I was hungry for more.
But my ineptitude doesn’t mean the end of the world for my life in Germany. For one, living and learning another language has shaped me more than any internship can offer. Of course, doing an internship in a foreign country is good for me and the look on my CV is second to none. Aside from the fact that I get to work in an intercultural environment, living and learning a new language/culture exposes me to the ‘real world’.
It made me realize that there’s a big difference between theory and the real world. I very quickly realized that living abroad is a continuous learning process. Just when you’ve thought that you know it all, there’s more learning to do, and a foreign country is the best teacher. The syllabus? Everything you do.
I always get the feeling that when you learn and understand a language, it’s almost like as if you’re stepping foot in a new world. When you hear two people having a conversation and you think to yourself «what are they saying?» you’re like an alien. Completely foreign, like you’re a different species and you don’t have a clue of what’s happening. But, when you do understand and become fluent, you don’t realize how much knowledge that is.
I do miss the searing sun; the long walks along beaches that won’t freeze you and most importantly, the food. But as an expatriate, I realized there’s more to life than that. In order for me to really get a taste of life, I had to put my money where my mouth was and that was living abroad.
Having a cup of tea with my colleagues is great, but what’s even better is talking to people with different backgrounds. Understanding how life is like in that city here, or that little island over there. Furthermore, learning their perspective on certain issues, as well as learning from them in general. In the real world, I learned that failing is a part of life. The amount of times I stood there, arguing with a cashier, in a language I am not that good at, taught me to learn from my mistakes. Learn how to order food or study the meaning of every single word. There is no finish line.
Living in Germany, I learned that everyone is the same: different.