When I first found out I was accepted into a university in Brisbane, Australia in 2010, I was resistant to the idea. For several reasons, too: It was unfamiliar territory, I was going to be away from home for an extended time (a first) and I knew no one there. But eventually, I had a great experience during my stay, and I don’t regret a thing. Yes, it may sound scary being away from familiar surroundings, it’s something I feel everyone should try, at least once.
Here’s why you should experience living abroad:
1. YOU LEARN NEW THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF
I don’t know whether it’s a case of whatever happens overseas, stays there, but I found myself trying many more things, which I never would’ve done back home. For instance, when my housemates and I took a trip to Sydney during our first semester break, we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, rode horses, and went on a ghost tour – all of these, I was terrified of.
But I survived, and have learnt to beat my (somewhat) fear of heights and horses. So challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, because you never know where it might take you, and what it might have to offer.
2. YOU LEARN NEW SKILLS
When you’re living overseas, you’ll definitely learn to take care of yourself better. If, like me, you’re more likely to set the kitchen on fire than to whip up a decent meal, this is one of the first things you’ll pick up. I was lucky enough to live with great housemates during my first three semesters, who took care of our meals, but I was alone during my last semester, after the rest graduated, or moved out. It was then that I learnt how to cook proper meals, buy my own groceries, work the washing machine, and so on. Yes, you may judge now.
3. IT BECOMES YOUR SECOND HOME
I have had so many fond memories in Brisbane, that I can’t think of any other place to settle down in, when I retire. It’s one of my backup plans, and I find myself gravitating toward the city, when I think of holiday destinations, just because it’s familiar.
Besides, since you’ve already called the city home for a while, it’s definitely easier and cheaper when you go back – you might score free accommodation with friends there, and you won’t have to suffer through touristy gimmicks. Plus, if you’re thinking of going back to work, the door’s always open. Although, make sure you read up on government policies on working visas, permanent residency, and so on.
4. YOU EXPERIENCE NEW CULTURES
This is kind of a given, especially when things are quite different back home. Life in Australia is more laidback in comparison. Stores close earlier (around 5 to 5.30pm, and they consider closing at 9pm, late night shopping!), and when it comes to paperwork processing, they take three days in comparison to a day’s wait here. But there are good things to be said as well. The people here know how to enjoy life. Coffee and hot chocolate seem to be a staple here, in addition to barbeques. And on a clear day, you see students lounging on the grass in the school’s courtyard, reading a book, sipping coffee, eating, and basically relaxing.
These are things you hardly get to see on our campuses here. Plus (and this one’s my favourite), they are more easygoing. These people really know how to keep a conversation going when they start one, and you can strike up a friendship randomly – whether it’s at the bus stop, or at the supermarket.
5. YOU BECOME MORE MATURE
Of all the reasons, this one’s probably the most compelling. You’ll find that while you’re missing home and your loved ones, you become a better person for trying to survive, at the end of the day. You’re taking better care of yourself, learning the ways of the world, managing your schoolwork and finances better, because no one is there to nag at you, or to pick up the slack for you when you make mistakes. And, when you’re finally ready to go home, you’ll appreciate your parents better, for what they’ve done for you.
About the writer:
Amanda Tan has written pieces for several publications, which include stories on food, lifestyle and beauty. She believes life is too short for regrets, and hopes to live in London (just for the experience). She is also a self-professed cake addict, and can never resist a slice, at any time of the day. If you’d like to share life hacks, travel tips and general advice, you can drop her a note at [email protected]