Here is a guide on what to expect as an expat and some of the challenges and benefits you might experience living abroad.
How You Experience Living Abroad
Your experience as an intern will vary greatly depending on where you choose to go and who you meet there. For example, with Globalteer, you will have the opportunity to intern in Siem Reap, Cambodia or Cusco, Peru. Our internships are made for you to discover a new place to live for 3 to 6 months while gaining valuable skills. This can be a great way to try living abroad for a while before doing it for a longer period of time.
Your experience can also vary depending on who you are as a person and what you are seeking. Regardless, you will have the chance to meet people from different cultures. For instance, in our Cusco office, we currently have 9 interns, and all come from different countries, studies, backgrounds! We are all learning from each other’s cultures and ways of thinking.
Moreover, you will get a deep understanding of the culture that you are in. You are also likely to encounter people who are in the same situation as you, and therefore, you will be genuinely interested in getting to know new people!
Cultural Diversity when Living Abroad
One of the challenges you might experience when you intern abroad is finding yourself in a different culture. As rewarding as this is in the end, being in a new culture can be overwhelming. A different way of communicating, acting, eating, dancing and living might come as a bit of a shock. It is impossible to prepare yourself completely for this cultural clash. But the small details and secrets will reveal themselves little by little; this just needs to be experienced.
As well as being a challenge, encountering a new culture is also one of the most beautiful things about living abroad. You will get to know a culture on a much deeper level, which is education itself. It will allow you to open your mind and challenge your perspective. This experience will improve your adaptation skills. Moreover, overcoming this challenge will give you a major feeling of accomplishment.
Ragnhild, our blogging intern in Cusco, describes well the benefits of living abroad in a different culture: "In addition to personal growth and learning about yourself, I have learned things about a new culture that you simply cannot learn in any other way. I have learned the secrets about the country and the culture on a much deeper level. This helps me widen my perspective and detach myself from patterns and attitudes that have been given to me through my culture.".
Language & Communication with Others
Language is a more obvious challenge that will come up when you move to another country. Prepare yourself with a list of important words and sentences that will come handy in some situations. Also, research the place you are going to for a smoother transition. However, there is no better opportunity to learn a new language! Take a few classes per week as well, and get out of your comfort zone by practicing with the locals. Don’t be shy; if you make mistakes, have a laugh about it! The locals will definitely appreciate your effort.
Everyday Life Tricks & Tips
When you are living abroad, you are arriving to a totally different place than what you are used to. You will need to learn new tricks to make your life easier. But don’t worry, it will happen way quicker than you think!
For instance, you might experience people trying to take advantage of you by charging you more for products or services than usual, since you are new. Or, people may constantly try to sell you things, as they see you are a foreginer. A little research beforehand and asking around about prices can help you with this problem. Also, living in a place for a longer time will teach you all the little secrets.
Our Volunteer Coordinator, Anna, working at the Cusco office explains the concept of enjoying little things when living abroad very well: "While I’m going to enjoy returning to European standards of personal space, I will deeply miss sitting around with a group of friends, all sharing the same beer. Being able to pay by card for everything again will make my life easier, but not easier enough to make up for no longer being able to get a delicious meal for less than s/10. I cannot wait to have fresh milk again (here they only have condensed, powdered or UHT), but I will miss how kind strangers are to each other, ready to help each other with their bags or give up their seat on the bus.".
In the End, Why Live Abroad?
What might be the biggest factor that drives people to choose to live abroad is the feeling of freedom that it gives you. As a foreigner, you will experience less cultural expectations towards you. This gives you freedom to act authentically, without sanctions or cultural restrictions. The release of these expectations might lead to less stress or anxiety, as the outside pressure is reduced. Along with this comes the benefit of making friends from around the world. On a bigger scale, it contributes to a flow in information and knowledge, cultural understanding and openness in a globalized world.
Kayla & Anna, two interns who worked at Globalteer summarize it well.
"It may seem challenging at first, to live in a new country, learn a new language and try out a different lifestyle, but who doesn’t love a good challenge? You will learn so much while interning abroad and it will give you the chance to have an unforgettable adventure." -Kayla
"Living abroad has already been the experience of a lifetime, and my stay here isn’t over yet. Is it going to be scary at first? Yes. Is it worth it? 100%. Take the leap and it may change your life in ways you could never have imagined." -Anna
Moving abroad might seem like a big step, and it is. However, so many people do it every day, and if this is something that is calling you, do your research, make contacts and take a leap of faith. It will not always be easy, but it will definitely be worth it!