Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

I've done a lot of things over the past 2 years that I never imagined I could or would do.  And, I've done them all at least fairly well.  So, I think that qualifies me to dole out a least a little of what I've learned so that it could be of some help or service to others who happen to find themselves in similar circumstances

Living Abroad
  • Don't spend your time wondering why this or that isn't done like it is at home.  You are not home. Try to embrace, or at the very least accept, the differences.
  • Realize that homesickness is inevitable at some point.  It does not mean that you are weak or not cut out for living abroad.  It is just part of the experience.
  • Learn from the culture of the country you live in.  Don't be so set in your American ways that you can't see that some things are just done better elsewhere.  Allow the experience to change you, even if it is just a little.
  • Cultivate international friendships. 
  • When you return home, accept that you will be different. You will view your home differently and the world differently.  It changes you from the inside out.  And accept that others may or may not understand. But regardless, don't spend all your time talking about your experience.  It is annoying to people 99% of the time.
  • If you are hesitant to live abroad and the opportunity presents itself, DO IT.  It is easier than you think.  You are stronger than you think.  If Sarah Thompson from Montgomery Alabama can do it, trust me, you can too.
  • Make the most of your time overseas.  Travel, travel, travel.  See as much as you can.  This wide world is so full of amazing things to see and do and learn.  Get out there!!
  • Try to learn at least a little of the language of your new home.  I wish I had done more of this.  It makes you feel so much more confident when out and about.  After 2 years, I finally feel like I have learned enough conversational phrases to get my point across in most of the more common situations.  I am FAR from even a little fluent, but I can tell that with each phrase I master, I feel less nervous going out.
  • Keep a blog or journal of your experiences and emotions.
  • Be respectful of the culture.  This is especially important in the Middle East.  You are a visitor.  You are also a representative of the United States, whether you realize it or not.  This is the thing that foreigners resent about Americans the most, or at least in my experience it is.  You don't have to agree with something to be respectful.  We would expect the same of visitors to our country.
  • Encourage people to visit you.  When they see you in your new home, it increases their understanding of your new life, and they can relate to you on a much deeper level.
Enough for now.  More to come.

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