When you first think about why would someone just leave everything behind and go live in a completely different culture, the answer would probably involve an epiphany or just someone who is tired of their day to day life.
However, living abroad is something that everyone should experience. Even the ones who are extremely content with their lives in their own country.
See, experiencing a new culture, for real, and not just by visiting their main sights and staying in a nice hotel, is like watching cosmos for the first time and realizing how insignificant we really are. And that is not a depressing realization, but a humbling and maturing one. We then realize we are part of something bigger, and this is a realization that changes our very core.
Since my first exchange experience, in a small town near Indianapolis at 15, I have become addicted to walking around, analyzing people living their lives. It’s liberating to understand that life goes by, with or without you, and other people are also constantly struggling, laughing, falling love and being humans.
Living abroad also teaches you to respect other cultures, as well as your own. You don’t have to agree with every aspect of it, but you sure have to respect it. And when you first start to miss even the smallest aspects of your own culture you start valuing them even more. I sure valued Brazilian fresh food even more after so many dinners at Steak ‘n Shake.
Another reason you should do it, and maybe the most important one, is that you are going to meet people incredibly different from you, with whom you will still share similarities. And that is going to teach you that you are capable of loving people who don’t share the same memories or points of view as you because all it takes is a lot of dialogue, tolerance, and respect.
I gained a new family, new friends, and inspirations in Indiana. I connected with so many interesting people, learning their history, struggles, and beliefs, and I realized that underneath all the social constructions we hold so dearly, we are basically the same.
So yes, to live abroad is not an ordinary decision, and it is also a crazy one, but I can assure you it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever live. It’s been 8 years since my first exchange experience, as a high school student who wanted to ride in the yellow buses she saw in the movies, and since then my hunger for experiencing new cultures has just got stronger, and I’m sure yours will be too.
Even though we live in such an interconnected world, we still see speeches of hate and segregation almost every day. Therefore, being able to understand, respect and interact with new cultures is not only a great thing to add to your resume, but is also a great way of becoming more human and making this a better world.