There are several reasons why people choose to live abroad. For some it’s better job opportunities, for some it’s itchy feet and adventurous spirit that drives them to make this step, while others move their lives to other countries to be with their families or loved ones. However, I don’t think there are any who have done that solely for the reason to become smarter. But, as it turns out, that’s one of the benefits all expats can enjoy. Let me talk you through the specific skills!
1. Improved communication skills
It’s definitely not just about learning a new language (if living abroad requires you to do that). Different cultures have different backgrounds, experiences, and mindsets, and you will need to learn how to fit in those – how to ‘translate’ others and how to help them understand you.
2. Higher levels of empathy and tolerance
When living abroad, you have no other choice than to tolerate the culture you live in and people you’re surrounded by. (Well, you do, but why on earth have you moved away from your home country if you’re unwilling to?) This will make you learn to understand them and accept the differences. These new skills will come handy when interacting with any culture, even when you move back home.
3. Cognitive capacity
There have been several pieces of research now on the cognitive benefits linked to bilingualism. Bilingual people have shown higher problem-solving skills, mental flexibility, attentional control, and multi-tasking. So it’s totally worth putting that extra effort in learning the local language!
4. Increased creativity
Living abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone. And what happens when you’re out of that warm, cosy area? You have to find ways to survive, to adjust, and in order to do so – sometimes you have to get creative. Also, being outside of your comfort zone offers you new experiences and opportunities, and all of that stimulates your brain and it’s easier and easier for you to think ‘outside the box’ and find creative solutions and approaches to everything you’re dealing with.
5. Self-awareness, confidence, and independence
When you try to make it on your own in a new country, it’s very, very challenging. Everything is new and unknown, loads of things can be strange, confusing and daunting. But you get through all of this, and you grow and learn along the way. You look back at what you’ve been through and feel proud, empowered and less scared of any future challenges that you might face. It’s a great boost to your confidence as you realize you can actually move mountains to reach the stars.
6. Broader perspective on the world
If you really want to fit in your new country, you have to keep your eyes and ears open as you probably want to learn so much about the current events, politics, culture etc. You might even happen to become aware of international and global issues… or just watch X Factor and The Great British Bake Off. Either way – you will learn something new. And whenever you will meet new people, you will learn new things about them and their lives in this country.
7. Becoming more flexible
You’re in a new environment, and pretty early on you realize that the social norms differ, the rules are different, and people interact with each other differently. You might not even realize that you have gradually adjusted to this world and things are less frustrating. Most likely it will finally hit you when you visit home and everything seems different all of a sudden. But hey, you have developed some adjustment skills, now put them to use!
I’m not saying I am way smarter now after having lived a year abroad, however, I can nod my head to all of the things written above. And I do believe that all of them have helped me grow in many ways. But I also must note that all of this is true only if you’re open to new experiences and challenges, and truly work on adjusting.
What new skills have you gained living abroad? Would love to hear!
Note: This post originally appeared on Expat in MCR (expatinmcr.com) blog which has since been renamed to Dream Chaser (dreamchaserwrites.com).