When you make the decision to live abroad, it is obviously a very great undertaking. Leaving behind all that is familiar and venturing into a perfectly unknown environment can be nerve-wracking, especially as a college student who has most likely finally shed all that high-school awkwardness and is starting to really form their own life at home. However, it’s also indescribably exhilarating to make such bold step. It is an amazing experience, but as excited as you may be for it, it is by no means easy.
Living in a foreign country, you soon realize that everything is, well, foreign. It sounds stupid to say, but it can become blaringly evident that such a redundancy might be necessary to keep in mind. When you are adjusting to your new home, regardless of how permanent it may be, there are days when everything seems like a struggle, from putting minutes on your phone, to finding a newly uncommon snack (I only found peanut butter after several days of active searching over the course of a couple weeks), to figuring out seemingly basic customs through trial and error, like etiquette for waiting in lines or interacting with restaurant wait staff. These trials are often humbling, but also frustrating and tough to deal with on your own. Though you make fast and strong bonds with students who are also going through the same experience and host families provide a wonderful source of comfort, sometimes at the end of the day you long for the support of those who know you inside and out. This mix of circumstances can really be overwhelming, but facing it and thriving in spite of that challenge is empowering and invaluable.
I have found that this experience has forced me to become incredibly more self-sufficient, in both my emotional and personal life and in my day-to-day interactions with the world. I must talk myself through trying situations and make them work for me and rely upon myself to make the best out of everything that comes my way. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the challenges of settling somewhere new, I have begun to see them as opportunities to push myself and stretch my comfort zone. In this way, your days are filled with small victories and moments, like successfully giving directions to a stranger or running into someone you know on the street, that help you regain your balance. I notice that I am so much more appreciative of the little things like that which put a smile on my face and am more in touch with myself.
Last weekend I travelled to the province of Córdoba for La Fiesta Nacional de Cerveza, Argentina’s version of Oktoberfest. While recounting the events of the weekend could fill an entire blog in itself, to say the least, one of my favorite moments was the morning that I woke up before all my friends and took a walk through the hills around our cabin. The only thing I could hear besides my footsteps were bird calls and the occasional moo from the pastures of cows that stretched into the distance, and I relished the fact I could be alone in the morning sun with my thoughts as I meandered through the countryside. Of the whole weekend, I enjoyed this the most because it was such a grounding, refreshing hour that allowed me to be fully present in the beautiful surroundings. An hour of alone time for me and Córdoba brought the trip to a full circle and left me feeling so much more satisfied and connected to the lovely province. Though the experience of travelling and living abroad can be trying, those challenges are what make such times so rewarding, helping you develop your sense of self as well as your ability to appreciate every moment.