Let me tell you, quite a lot. As I have been living in foreign countries for half a year now, I have been away from home for a while. My first city to live in was Bordeaux, France. During an exchange semester. Once there and away from my routine at home I soon started posing questions like:
What do I want to do in the future? A question a lot of us pose to ourselves right now, but most of us don’t know the answer. A giant question mark in our heads, a ton of possibilities in front of us. Too many, so we get lost, too many offers to choose from, too many things that interest us. A lot of them sound cool and exciting, a lot of them are yet to be experienced. The paradox of choice.
I guess, we often get lost in it. Getting away from home for a bit is a good way to clear your mind and to get some distance between you and the overwhelming amount of possibilities. A little bit of choice is necessary, but too much of it leaves us clueless. While you are staying away from home for a bit you have time to discover if what you thought you wanted to do really is what you want to do. That may sound weird, but I, for example, thought I had my career path completely mapped out. Everything planned, everything structured. Just to discover that it actually was what two-year-ago me wanted, but present me didn’t do so anymore. The distance between my routine at home and a completely new world in France really helped me to ask myself some crucial questions. It gave me time to rethink all my decisions and slowly getting to know what I wanted. Knowing what you want is the most important thing when it comes to your future. Then, you can always take it from there.
Staying abroad you will discover what is really important to you. You will learn to value your family and your friends way more as they are not there with you all the time. So you have to call them, you have to make an effort to stay in their lives. You have to ask them what is going on. And if the same amount you give into these relationships comes back you can consider yourself really lucky. That’s when you realize which relationships are the most important ones to you. I for example feel like I took my family for way too granted before. Now I don’t anymore. Family is so important, staying in touch with the people who have been with you since you were a little child, since the day you were born and who know you best is a very crucial thing. Those will be the people you can rely on, you can go to if you have a problem. The same thing is true for friends. If you have friends you can always call no matter how far away you are and who will listen to you – you got great friends you got to hold onto. People who genuinely care about you are the most valuable thing you can have living on your own and away from home.
You also learn to value new relationships, the new friends you make in the country you’re staying in. I got to know even more cultures than I did before and came across a lot of misassumptions we have about a lot of different places in this world. France and especially Bordeaux has a great cultural diversity and you can make friends from all over the globe. Making new friends always opens new doors for you. With new friends your surroundings will be different from the ones back home, you will make a lot of new experiences, you will meet a lot of people that influence you – maybe without even noticing it. You’ll only realize it when your friends back home tell you how much you’ve changed.
You also learn not to take everything for granted. We are fortunate enough to get paid for doing an exchange semester, but, of course you won’t be floated with money. Living standards might be a bit different, you might find yourself in a tiny apartment where you’ll have to improvise a bit. You learn how to deal with different situations, how to make the best out of everything.
It’s amazing how fast you adapt to a new environment, how fast a place grows on you. After a while I already called Bordeaux my second home. If you feel settled, if you have a good environment and great people surrounding you, you can feel at home anywhere in the world.
As I am doing right now as well. I am currently living with my boyfriend in Barcelona – and couldn’t feel more at home than here. Being in the city for only a month I already feel like I belong to it. If you stay with the person you love you will feel comfortable and settled anywhere. Granted, Barcelona is a great city, but I am sure we would make a home out of any place in this world. That’s the beauty of love. It might sound cliché, but in the end it’s everything you need. You need it to be happy, to feel settled, to feel comfortable. No matter which kind of love – from your partner, your family, your friends – or ideally all three of them – if you have people who love you in your life you are way richer than you might think.