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  1. #1
    Senior Member AutumnReverie's Avatar
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    Default Going Abroad - Experiences? Epiphanies? Life Lessons?

    Has anyone here ever worked/studied/volunteered abroad for a significant amount of time (approx. 4 months or longer) before? And, if so, where did you go and how was the experience?

    Did having that experience have a significant impact on your life? Did you learn something about yourself? Did your perspective on anything (people, the world, your values, etc.) change at all?

    So everyone, if you don't mind, please tell me about your experiences.
    Last edited by AutumnReverie; 11-19-2009 at 11:42 AM.

  2. #2
    Member Manimal's Avatar
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    i had a temporary job as a live in baby sitter in the bahamas for about 4 months, the biggest thing i learnt was to slow down and take it easy. now that i'm back home, i have been for several years, i have made it a priority to ensure my life is as simple and stress free as possible.

    i suppose i could expand on this but my keyboard is wearing out and its rather difficult to type things out.

  3. #3
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    I'm Canadian - I moved to Ireland 7 years ago, when I was 23. I lived there for 3 years and then moved to the UK, where I have lived for four and a half years.

    I feel like these have been my formative years, especially since I lived at home (in the same house my whole life!) until I left. I haven't done the single adult life thing in Canada, so that will be yet another new experience when I go back, which I am fairly sure I will (maybe in two or three years?)

    Living abroad is a great experience in that you meet so many more people from different cultures (especially the cities I've lived in), you get a broader view, more chances to travel, a more exciting/interesting life in a way...But it also messes you up. I now have a feeling that I'm never really going to "belong" anywhere. I don't want to stay in London forever, because it's such a crazy full-on place that I already feel like it's stressed me out way more than I need, and it's hard to have good relationships with other people here - but after London, virtually anywhere else is going to seem boring/narrow. Especially because I don't really see myself leaving London and moving to (say) New York. If I get to the point where I want to leave London, I will be ready to go somewhere smaller - at least a bit smaller. (Maybe Toronto or Vancouver - still not tiny!)

    Of course, I am still in the middle of the "abroad" experience. When I move back to Canada, assuming I do, it may take me several years to get a real perspective on how this has changed my life, and how it has shaped me as a person.
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  4. #4
    Senor Membrane
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutumnReverie View Post
    Has anyone here ever worked/studied/volunteered abroad for a significant amount of time before?
    Twice. Five years ago I did an exchange in Spain. This year I went to film a documentary through Asia. Both trips took about six months.

    Quote Originally Posted by AutumnReverie View Post
    Did having that experience have a significant impact on your life? Did you learn something about yourself? Did your perspective on anything (people, the world, your values, etc.) change at all?
    Well, they did, of course, it is "something big" happening to you, so yes, something will change. I did the Spain when I was in a situation that I had had enough of my social anxieties, so I thought I would go there all alone and "extrovert" myself. This didn't work well, so one point of the trip was to realize my limits in shaping myself. But other than that, I got most of my hippie influence from the same trip (I hitched back on a van of hippies) and also saw the negative sides of that ideological life. Actually the trip was really all about coming to terms with reality. I saw many bad things and overdid some things, but as a whole it was a positive experience, but one that I would not repeat in the same way anymore.

    This year, it was work. My friend told me about this opportunity to go with his friend to make a docu-soap, and of course I went, I had nothing to lose. The trip turned out to be the closest thing to slavery I've ever seen. I have never worked so much. And I didn't really work well with my boss either. Many things went wrong, many of those were his fault. We didn't have enough to eat, sometimes we didn't even have enough water. The impact this trip had on me... I now know that I can take it, six months of shit and I am still here, relatively sane. And, I found out if I flip or not when you really piss me off (a Russian "patriot" beat me up. In normal life it is impossible to make me that angry). So, this was a very different journey, but I don't regret it, I knew there was a possibility of things going wrong and still went there so I can't blame anyone, it was my choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    But it also messes you up. I now have a feeling that I'm never really going to "belong" anywhere. I don't want to stay in London forever, because it's such a crazy full-on place that I already feel like it's stressed me out way more than I need, and it's hard to have good relationships with other people here - but after London, virtually anywhere else is going to seem boring/narrow.
    This is a good point. I felt everything to be too small and "Finnish" when I came back home. It can probably cut your roots in a way. But, later I came to think in a bit different way. The culture I have grown up in is basically the only culture I understand well enough to know that I understand the people. It's like, even if I am pretty much fluent with my English I don't think that I would understand Americans or English, not until I lived there for ten years or something. Note that my point is not if I understand them, but that I would have a nagging feeling of not understanding them. So, my culture is the one for me, in that sense.

  5. #5
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nolla View Post



    This is a good point. I felt everything to be too small and "Finnish" when I came back home. It can probably cut your roots in a way. But, later I came to think in a bit different way. The culture I have grown up in is basically the only culture I understand well enough to know that I understand the people. It's like, even if I am pretty much fluent with my English I don't think that I would understand Americans or English, not until I lived there for ten years or something. Note that my point is not if I understand them, but that I would have a nagging feeling of not understanding them. So, my culture is the one for me, in that sense.
    Haha, I kind of understand about Finland feeling "small and Finnish" when you got back. My mum is from there and we used to spend summers there till I was 15, when my grandmother died. Turku is a similar size to Victoria, my hometown in Canada. To me, Finland is a backwater in much the same way as I grew up in a backwater - but they're pretty damn nice as backwaters go Finland also has the advantage of being much closer to the rest of Europe, and other interesting parts of the world, than the West Coast. Not that I don't love the West Coast but it can feel quite remote.

    Given that my mum is Finnish, and my dad also has a partly European background, and we travelled there a lot from when I was very young, I think that when I lived in Canada I felt quite "European." I kind of feel more "Canadian" after living in Europe for 7 years (though some would argue I've never really lived in "Europe" - only Ireland and the UK!). Funny how your perspective changes that way.
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  6. #6
    Mud and rain and chaos... TickTock's Avatar
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    Never leaving your homestead will mess you up more than if you go. And I don't know anyone who has travelled and regretted it, they only want to do it more. Yeah there can be bad experiences but that's just the same as being in your home town, lifes peaks and troughs. Don't go expecting it to change you and waiting for something to happen. Have an open mind and just take the experience for what it is.
    ~ Truth ~ Freedom ~ Health ~ Love ~ Communication ~ Humor ~ Respect ~

  7. #7
    Senior Member tinkerbell's Avatar
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    not for as long as that, but I did spend a couple of months on a Frnech conservation project - OK no correction I worked on a project that was more about doing up some guys old house than a real conservation project.

    Be mindful of money... don't lend it to people you don't know them and they (people travelling) are an unsatable group so be wary of real trust. Don't carry lots of money around with you - check if there are cash points where you are traveling too.

    Do try the local food but be careful of water and bugs

    Do take time to see stuff and enjoy living a different way.

    Understand that not all travellers are well adjusted people, treat them with a wee bit of causion but also enjoy meeting new people

    Be careful not be sexually exploited... take protection - there are certain parts of the world where you need to buy smaller condoms (and keep in mind condoms are not full proof).... sex has potential consiequences - are you prepared to get pregant/father a child you know nothing about

    Eat a balanced diet if you can - sometime more tricky than it appears,a nd ensure proper hydration and salt esp if a hot country

    Make sure you get injections/innoculations before going to certain countries, take malaria tables, and bug spray. Certain countries will require you to take hypodermic needles and syringes so you know they are clean.

    Check out lonely planet or other travel books

    Make sure people at home know your iternary and you know where and how to communicate home/get emergency covers.


    Anjoy - travel is good fun, and puts you in a different midnset... but well worth the effort. I don't really like the whole 2 weeks here or there - a few months is long enough to really unwind and enjoy

  8. #8
    Une Femme est une femme paperoceans's Avatar
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    I worked in Austria from November until March and I do feel like I changed in a way. I'm more appreciative of life and my home country, etc. Living abroad helps you to really think about your future. I do feel more mature, etc. I don't know, it's really hard to explain. Before I didn't take education or work seriously, but now I do.

    It's different for everyone. Where are you going?
    Between that cigarillo and sticking my finger down my throat to see if I could DT, I feel like puking RN.

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  9. #9
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    I studied in Denmark for 7 months. I loved to meet so many people from different background (lots of international students there). I understood that I'm not tailored for very cold climate. I understood that the standard of living isn't much different from Italy. I appreciated my homecountry more when I came back. Overall, though, it was a really good experience, because now I have many Chinese, Brazilian, Ethiopian friends that I want to meet again, thus I will be "forced" to travel to those countries
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