What Living Overseas for Half a Year Does to You

What Living Overseas for Half a Year Does to You

This is how someone becomes intricately changed after studying or working abroad, coming home a fresh and better person than he/she once was.

I have to say, going on a vacation for a couple of days or weeks compared to living overseas for half a year is very different. First of all, you’re not going there for a holiday. You’re actually living there – having to, therefore, deal with the realities of everyday life.

An almost-daily sight for me

During my student exchange programme in Paris, I encountered some of these realities first-hand. What are they?

Well, some of them include going through tedious administrative work to settle my rent, phone line and bank card, taking the public transportation daily, cooking my own meals, and learning the cultural norms and values of Paris.

One of the many amazing sunsets in Europe

And as scary and daunting as having to navigate a foreign land all by yourself is, it trains you to pick up so many skills quickly and effectively. Basically, it trains you to be more independent and to rely on yourself. It helps to propel you a smidge more into adulthood, especially for those of you who, like me, are still at least semi-reliant on your parents for various help.

You also learn to see the place you’re living in with a new perspective, one that is far removed from the stereotypical image of it. You discover how to view the world in a different light, appreciating all the quirks and nuances that make a place what it is.

When I first arrived in Paris, I was still carrying the preconceived notions I had of it: the most beautiful city in the world, a place for lovers, the capital of fashion. Not that it isn’t – I can see why it is, but it’s so much more than that now to me. I have learned to understand certain aspects of why Parisiens are the way they are, or why they act the way they do (not that I claim to be a Parisien expert – but simply, that I understand more now).

For example, just from seeing the rich history, culture, and art that’s seeping through their museums, galleries, and even a random street, I can totally get why they would be as proud as they are. Heck, I would be proud, too, if I were born in Paris and trawling its streets every day.

Also, as much as living in a totally new and different environment can be pretty fun, it does produce a certain homesickness in your heart from time to time. After all, if you, like me, had never had the opportunity to live overseas for an extended period of time, you’d be sure to miss the little things that make home, home. You’d miss the food, the roads, the language, the familiar street signs, your regular hang-out spots. You’d miss the big things as well – your parents, your family, your friends, familiarity. But you learn to manage these feelings of homesickness, and you learn to be more of your own person.

English graffiti by the River Seine

Speaking of that, being in a totally foreign land is, as cliche as it may sound, a great way to find yourself. Maybe, for the first time in your life, you’re living an everyday life where you’re free from plenty of the obligations you have had in your past incarnation! Not to sound dramatic here, but it truly is a great way for you to be the person that you think you always could be. You never actualized this person back in your hometown for fear that it may raise eyebrows, or that it’s just not ‘you’. And then after trying it out for a while, you’re not afraid to share this aspect of you more boldly and daringly when you’re back – and that’s a good thing.

By the River Seine

At the same time, you realise that there is so much more to the world, so many different things and places and people and cultures to live and explore, and you start to feel that what was previously ‘home’ cannot contain you. You left a bit of your heart to that city or town, and that’s not enough – you want to leave a bit of yourself in the different parts of the world now. And as much as the place you grew up will always stick with you, you crave for a life of wandering around the globe, so you can always learn and so you can always grow.

Most importantly, all these positive qualities will not disappear once you finally make your way back – no, they stick with you even as you assimilate back into your old life. These are lessons that you will now carry with you for life. All the good and bad experiences, all the great times and all the fears, all the alone times and reflections, they are all here for you, with you, as you go on.

About Author

See Wah
See Wah

See Wah loves to immerse herself in the poetic side of life: art, literature, photography, and of course travelling - poetry (of the human condition) in itself. She believes that the world is endlessly inspiring and beautiful, and when her head isn’t in the clouds, she hopes to fill her life with all these things that makes life wondrous


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