There is immeasurable value to living in a different country thank you grew up in. Traveling to different countries opens your eyes, but living in different countries opens your heart. To immerse yourself in a completely new culture and society takes dedication, courage and unavoidably impacts your entire life after that. Do it.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
I spend a semester studying abroad in Peking University, Beijing as part of my Linfield education. Life-changing, eye-opening, whatever words I use to describe it will never be able to encompass everything that living abroad was for me.
Growing up in the Philippines and the West Coast alternatively has given me an intimate understanding of the differences between a First World and Third World country. Resent nothing, respect all. However, studying abroad in China was completely new. Assumption is the enemy of success, and I had assumed that since I spent my life between two countries, living in a third would be an easy adjustment. Nope. It’s never easy being engulfed in a new language and society. However, I believe it’s always worth it.
Here are some adventures I had abroad, and some lessons I learned.
1. Respect where you are. Wherever you go, you are ultimately a visitor. And when you’re gone, you’re gone and life will go on without you.
2. Different cultures are more capable of coexisting than you would expect. We are living in an age of extreme cultural overlap with Third Culture Kids and global franchises. Home is everywhere and everywhere is home. Novelty is everywhere. The rest of the world is next door.
3. Respect. You don’t need to pray in a temple to acknowledge it’s beauty.
4. Explore. I thought our campus consisted of the buildings that we were taught in. Turns out there’s a wonderland if you walk far enough down the paths.
5. Adjust, assimilate. Don’t lose yourself, but don’t be so bull-headed that you refuse to eat local food and end up staving to death. Learn how to perform vital life functions in a new culture–learn how the locals do it. In China, that translated to knowing how to haggle, trying and falling in love with new food, accepting the fact that sometimes toilets were holes in the ground, and figuring out the transportation system. (p.s. I dare you to visit Wangfujing. Turns out I really like snake!)
6. Explore EVERYTHING! Climb mountains (Yunmeng) The Forbidden City, Tianamen Square, the Water Cube & Bird’s Nest, etc. explore Beijing and Shanghai, but also visit Inner Mongolia, Chengdu, Guilin, Leshan, Longsheng, Xi’an, Yangshuo and places you can’t pronounce and have never heard of. Go everywhere you can.
Live in a new place. Travel. You will grow from it, you will hate it at times, and ultimately you will love it.