In A New Country.. Idiot Style
I decided to take up an offer for studying abroad in Paris a month or so ago. Today marks my official 50 days in and I decided to write a few things I have learned since coming here. I will probably keep adding stuff as I think about more things to share. So don’t be surprised if the post randomly ends. There wont be a conclusion till probably January 2018. I am definitely glad to be here. It has really been eye opening. My days have varied from absolute panic and loneliness to absolutely mind blowing moments of awe and happiness. Of course all the while realizing how big the world is and how insignificant I really am. And on that happy note, lets begin.
You Really Are Alone
Further adding on to my previous point of implying your insignificance, let me also tell you how alone you really are. But why thats a good thing. Before I got here, I decided that I would be one of those lone travelers who judges annoying tourists and their I *heart* Paris T-shirts. I had constantly been living with people and being with people back home. Being alone made me feel kinda weird and restless. So when I got here, I wanted to test myself and do everything alone for once. To see if I could break free of the molds of what society and the people I know expect of me. Find a bit of more authenticity in myself if you will. So despite the fact that I have made quite a few good school friends here who invited me to go places, I stuck to being alone for the most part. I soon realized that this is what I needed. And probably what you need if you feel trapped or unsure of who you are. Being truly alone in a foreign country is a whole new level of isolation like never before. And I love it. Yes it gets lonely and miserable sometimes, but you begin to trust yourself like you never have. You begin to learn what you really like and what you put up with to the point that you thought you liked it. You also find out things you really love but would not have discovered them because your identity back home would have never let you even try them. Like for me, I found out I hated certain American music but would jam it back at home. While I also found a new found appreciation for some classical music. Stuff I would have instantly skipped just from reading the name of the song. Though this is a stupid example, it gets the point across.
Being alone is a natural state and one that should be observed often. Now I am not saying to go live off the grid as a nomad. But when you realize the cliche that you came in this world alone and you will die alone, you start to enjoy the moments of solitude. Being alone gives you time to think about your current situation and gives you insights on who you really are and how you tick. You begin to realize that you don’t actually NEED anyone. You just appreciate it when they are around but even if they aren’t? You are okay.
Despite Borders And Flags…We Are All Predictably Human
Living in America (or what ever your home country is), you will meet people from all kinds of backgrounds. You get a fair idea of how the world is different from you. But it only takes a certain time living abroad and traveling a few countries before you realize, we really are all the same people inside but we just have different customs and accents. Everyone wants to be happy, to eat fatty food without getting fat and date beautiful people who have no emotional baggage etc. Despite being different in the external we all want the same things in the essence. Though you probably already figured that and it is a fairly obvious concept. It was still a little nice to realize this first hand and makes you wonder why even have this “Us against them” mentality. Makes it a lot easier to just introduce yourself to locals and have a chat with them. However it is still a very good idea to learn the local customs so you don’t piss off people. For starters, though it is not an absolute must to learn the main language of the country, you are basically shooting yourself in the foot in you don’t. I speak no French, know no one, and don’t even know much about the French besides their strange obsession with baguettes (It’s all true by the way, I’ve seen it first hand). Yet here I am in France. Though I wouldn’t call it a mistake, it definitely made things a lot harder than they needed to be.
You Can Re-Invent Yourself
As I said above, you begin to really understand what you like and don’t like by being alone. But what you can also do is get yourself a completely new identity. You see, back home, people expect you to act a certain way. The closer you are to them the more they will expect you to be the same for the most part. This is good if you are happy with who you are and your identity back home. But if you are trying to change a few things about yourself because you feel like its hindering your progress in life, people you love can really make you not want to take action. For example, if you are a nice guy, you can really work on yourself while being abroad. Learn how to set proper boundaries etc. You are not the person you were yesterday but people you know sure as hell make it hard for you to forget that. You no longer tied to your identity.
You Really Need To Budget
Now, unless you are some millionaire, you probably will not have a lot of money to start off with, and so it’s a good idea to have a game plan laid out before you even get there. There’s tons of content on how to make a proper budget plan and what not. But what really helped me was looking at the price of living in that country versus what it costs to be in your country. Like how much milk costs etc. What I did is search my typical grocery list and how much it costs here vs there. This way you can be mindful of how you spend your money. Also it is a good idea to keep currency in mind as obvious as that might sound. It can really make a big difference on not only your wallet but also your psychology. For example, I am from USA so I operate in USD. Now when I went to London, (highly recommend you visit) the numbers looked cheaper which made me want to buy. But in reality it was more expensive. For example, there was this jacket that I wanted to buy. Back home it would cost $35. But in UK it was for 30 pounds ($40 in USD). So though it looked cheaper, the currency difference actually made it cost more in USD. Though its a small difference, if you are on a budget that stuff adds up really quickly.