Let’s face it - our big world is actually a really small place. Globalisation cannot be stopped or “rewound”. Budget airlines, night buses, and high-speed trains connect us very easily in terms of mobilisation.
We see more and more people travelling the world and experiencing things... We can’t help but wonder if we would ever be able to do anything similar. If you want to embrace new cultures, meet new people, and practice a foreign language but you are scared that a gap year or volunteering might interfere with your career or there is any other reason as to why you cannot do it, why not try being friends with international students in your city or even go abroad to study? Life takes place in a global space - and so should you!
1. The intercultural atmosphere
In an atmosphere where there are many cultures coexisting together, you can learn a lot from each one of them. You understand the world better, you see why each society is the way it is. You learn not only to tolerate, but also to appreciate.
Besides, how fun is it to dance to latin music with the Mexicans? How funny is it to dare the Taiwanese to pronounce a Spanish-like “r”? Those little moments are priceless, and the fact that each of you is from another place only brings more excitement into daily life.
2. The language exchange
Definitely, the first words you will be taught in any foreign language are insults without knowing their real meaning. Once you get over the embarrassment of greeting your female Russian friend with a cheerful “Ты сука (Ty suka)” because your other Russian-speaking male friend told you that it is a special form to say “Hello, how are you?” to girls, you will be enthusiastic once again to learn new words.
After that initial stage of mockery is over, you will start teaching your language and improving or learning another one. No one is better than a native speaker when you need to practice your speaking skills or ask crucial questions about the language. If you are friends, they will (probably) be patient. Plus, you want to learn their mother tongue! That must be so exciting for them.
3. The fitting-in
According to my own experience, I mingled into international atmospheres while living abroad, fitting in is much easier. Feeling as if you were a part of the group is quicker. You feel as if you belong because nobody truly belongs to where you are right now, even if it feels like home. Each one of you comes from a different city or even hemisphere.
When you go abroad alone and mingle with people who did the same, connections are formed rapidly since you are going through the same situation. There are people who understand how it feels to be alone, not to speak the local language fluently, to be far away from everything and everyone you have ever known. You know what they are experiencing and help each other through until you feel completely comfortable with the situation. You just feel like you belong there, with them.
4. The opening of the mind
The fact that people from all over the globe are now surrounding you, breaks the imaginary bubble in which you had lived for so long. You will become more flexible towards traditions or ways that are not your own. You will accept the fact that things are not only done the way in which you have always done them. You will like the fact that things you have never imagined to be possible are actually good ideas sometimes. Beware, it is a mutual surprise.
5. The breaking of stereotypes
Some stereotypes exist because there are people who are indeed that way. For example, I have never met a Spanish person who was just plain boring – they seem to have that spark of happiness inside them the whole time. I have never met an Italian who seemed shabby – they have an awesome sense of fashion and appear to be nicely groomed all the time. Nevertheless, exceptions always exist.
Many other stereotypes are just misconceptions, and exceptions are regular. Not all people from Chile have a strange accent, not all people from Argentina can dance the Tango. It is just completely wrong to judge people by the stereotype from their country. People are the way they are.
6. The crazy experiences
Once-in-a-lifetime things. International students tend to be a little bit more reckless and “YOLO” than regular students. They are living in that place for a limited time and know it will be over sooner than expected; therefore, they leave procrastination behind and seize the day, for real. Movies, partying, cooking, day excursions, weekend getaways... They will surely sign up for almost anything which means having fun. You will literally not know how they fit studying and sleeping into their tight agenda. Do they actually go to class, anyway? They do. And somehow most of them even keep their grades high as well.
7. The bonds are created
The friendships that you forge during your University years are most of the time very strong. However, they are no comparison to the friendships you can make while studying abroad or with people from other countries studying in your town. These ones, somehow, are much stronger. Maybe because you start over from scratch in an unknown place.
Perhaps because you let yourself be who you truly are without being afraid. It might be because the experiences you’ve lived together are so unique that they have seriously made an impact on your life. Even if you distance yourself with time, you will never be who you were before meeting them. Even if your connection fades through the months, you will never forget how it felt to connect. Even if your communication ends, you will never forget them – and they will not forget you.
Seriously, going international is one of the best things that you can ever do for yourself. Besides all the practical and theoretical knowledge you will acquire, you will embrace life and look at it with a brand new pair of eyes.
What are you waiting for?
Source: Mel's Mapa Mundi
Edited by: Lucie Vachova