I consider myself a good person. I’m considerate to those around me. I help others when I can. I try to be the best person I can be, although I admit I don’t always succeed.
I argue with people. I get frustrated. I sometimes hold a grudge for longer than I should.
I’ve been busy with work lately, struggling to find balance and having difficulty fitting people in. When I get busy, I internalise more and retreat into myself. I neglect those I should make time for and I don’t get back to people as quickly as I could.
But I realise this and I work to change this. I acknowledge that, like most people, I have to work hard every single day to be the best version of myself I can be.
While there’s no doubt that living abroad changed me, I wonder if it helped shape a better version of me. Did it make me more conscious of my behaviours? Did my experiences define a more agreeable ‘me’? Does spending long periods of time abroad allow me to evolve and grow as a person for the better?
It may not have made me better but the way I adapted to these challenges and experiences may reflect whether I became better or not.
Does living abroad make you appreciate more?
Living overseas gave me a greater appreciation for what I had at home and where I was fortunate enough to be born. I learnt that much of what I disliked back home wasn’t half as bad as I first thought. It made me realise that the many things I saw as problems when living there weren’t problems at all.
The problems and issues were related to the size of my existence. Once I moved abroad and my world became bigger, those problems dropped away at the same time that my awe at the size of the planet grew.
Suddenly, I was more appreciative of every gesture, moment and opportunity, where before I had taken it all for granted. I had to work harder to make small successes and I no longer had the security blanket of a familiar environment to hide myself in.
Values changed. The things that mattered shifted. The lens through which I saw everything widened. I appreciated, and continue to appreciate, more.
Does living abroad make you a better friend?
Living abroad gave me the opportunity to meet, live and work with interesting people from around the world. It made me more inquisitive and open to new friendships, where before I would rely on family or existing friends.
When you live abroad, friends become as important as family. Where before you had a close network to help out, now you have to rely on yourself when times get tough. And so the friends you make on your travels are a source of support through the tough times and become a stand-in for the family you no longer have around you.
So I’ve come to place high value on the friendships I make overseas.
Ditto too for the ones from home. It is the most depressing thing to see friendships drop away because of time and distance, and so I work hard to maintain the earlier connections I had. I’m not always successful and much also depends on their effort with me.
There are those who would say I am absent and therefore consider them less, but I hold former and current friendships dear. It’s not always easy to be the visible friend you were in a time gone by but I try harder and think about being a better friend more.
Does living abroad make you more open-minded and respectful?
Living abroad made me more aware of those around me. Whether cultures differ or the people themselves, I’m more conscious of my own behaviour and place in the world around me.
It also forced me to embrace greater independence and build self-reliance for I must provide and care for my family a long way from familiarity.
I was always open to other cultures and ways of thinking, other attitudes and outlooks – you have to be to even consider an overseas experience. But I found my horizons broadened and capacity to accept and try new things grew.
When it comes down to it, I’m a stranger in a strange land.
The longer I remain here, the less this is so, but the fact remains that I am an unknown quantity to the people I come into contact with. This makes me less judgemental, more considerate, careful and open-minded about the habits and customs around me.
Where I observed less and was not as tolerant of differences before, I have become more respectful of others, especially while I’m on another’s territory and even more so when I return home and see other ‘strangers’ land in the country for the first time. I am more empathetic.
On balance, I have changed and grown as a person from living abroad.
The experiences, the excitement, the adventure, the newness of it all. These things have had a profound impact on me. But beyond all this fun, living abroad did help me become a better person.
Not better than others, but better than my former self.
Do you think living abroad changed you for the better or have you come away with less, not more?
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