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Life > Experiences

The Most Valuable Lessons I Learned Being an International Student That I Wouldn’t Learn Elsewhere

Unique experiences await you. 

Studying abroad is one of the things people recommend each other to do at least once in a lifetime. But I would say that once you live abroad, a part of you will always live abroad, as the feeling that you belong to more than one place will follow you. It is one of the experiences that will shape your personality and add incredible value to you for the rest of your life. 

Being half Brazilian and half Italian really helped me open my eyes to embrace different cultures. I moved to the US from Brazil almost six years ago and wouldn’t do anything differently. In fact, the only thing I wish I knew before is how many unique things I’d learn—which could make the challenging times go smoothly, as they are just little rocks along the way. 

I see my journey living abroad as if I’m walking on a sunny pathway, where at every instant, I’m faced with a decision of whether to take a right or left path. and deep down, I know that no matter which route I take, a new adventure awaits me. That’s exactly the feeling I have every day when I wake up: I know there will be something new to try, learn, and discover. I’m never bored because the thought of all the amazing things that await me in my way excites me. 

But enough with the reflection and metaphors about pathways and routes. Here’s a list of things I wish my older self could have given my teenager self when I first got off that plane—alone—that landed at LAX. 

Embrace Impermanence and Change

One of the main things I learned is to be open to embracing change. Being a person who always had plans for the next month, year, or decade, it was not easy to accept the natural flow of things. Living in another country allowed me to open myself to new opportunities at any moment that may come up and understand that our lives can have many different plots besides the one we imagined for ourselves. 

Embracing change is not only about the external aspects, like the culture, food, language, or any other element that may differ from where you are coming from. It’s more about embracing the change from within and learning to let go of old dreams that may not be the best for your life. 

There’s a saying in Brazil that we’re in constant metamorphosis, which is very accurate. Allowing ourselves to embrace the change of our tastes, likes, dislikes, interests, and passions; is genuinely what makes an experience worth living. Maybe you only liked roses because you never knew sunflowers existed, or you said you didn’t like sushi (like me) because you never had the chance to try it before. Whatever the case may be, smaller or bigger than these, embrace your impermanence and allow yourself to welcome a new version of yourself!

Always Remember Where You Came From

Still related to impermanence, things come and go in our lives—relationships, jobs, houses, passions—but you will always stay with yourself. Investing in getting to know and treating yourself the right way is the most valuable thing you can do. Because at the end of the day, only one person will be with you through it all, and that person is yourself. 

Home is wherever your mind and heart are. If you’re not happy where your life is at the moment, it’s time to make a change. Of course, the place you live and your relationships impact you, but that’s only a part of what makes you feel at home. Trust me, feeling home and happy where you are at the moment is more about how satisfied you are with your choices. What made you decide to go on that pathway instead of the other? Thinking that it is a choice you made to be where you are today will make your adaptation easier in a foreign country, especially when homesickness starts to hit. It’s about finding peace within yourself based on the choices that led you to be where you are today.

Take Risks With Resilience 

Living abroad definitely takes you out of your comfort zone, so this is not news to anyone. But what most people do not realize is that taking risks far out of your comfort zone (for this, I mean your culture) requires way more resilience than you would think. Because besides the “standard” risks of taking a chance, you are putting way more in line—your comfort of staying closer to family, closer to whatever was known to you before. 

Taking risks abroad strengthens you differently, so if you are not a risk-taker and want to live overseas, consider opening up more to what opportunities such risks can bring you. Because at the end of the day, the best stories come from that decision we made that may seem crazy to others.

Things Look Different From a Distance

Have you ever heard the saying, “far from the eyes, far from the heart”? Well, you are living proof of it when you live abroad. Every little thing that annoyed you in your home country will still be there, but when you are far away, your mind will open to realize that nowhere things will be all perfect. Every country has aspects we do not like or agree with, and in the end, it is all a matter to balance out what suits you best for that moment in your life. 

With time, we learn to focus on the good aspects that each place can add to our lives instead of using the wrong things as an excuse for our choices. It helps us to own our decisions without blaming anything in the external world. 

try Your best to Stay Confident

Confidence is definitely one of the things I most developed while living abroad. Learning to honestly believe in myself and my potential and changing my mindset led me to value my personality, my work, and my culture, which has no price.

Your confidence is boosted every time after facing a challenging moment away from home, dealing with yourself in another language, and building more resilience each day. With my mindset in my dreams and focusing on my belief that I am where I was supposed to be at that moment, I believe there’s nothing I won’t be able to do. There’s a force bigger than myself guiding me in difficult moments, the same force that brought me to where I am today.

Family and Friends are a Priority, always

It may be cliché to say, but having people in your life to cheer for you and aim for your happiness makes a difference. I’m so grateful to have people in my life that I could rely on in challenging moments and during life change situations, even if they were an ocean apart. I’ve also met amazing people here that make me feel I truly have a home away from home. 

Being away from your home country makes you value having special people in your life, but it also makes you understand what you look for in a person to welcome them in your life. What energy they are bringing, and what they are adding to your life. Remember that no one can make you happy, but they can contribute to that happiness. 

Everyone has a different experience while living abroad, but I assure you that one thing every person living in a foreign country will tell you is that your experience is what you make it. 

It’s normal to feel homesick often, but remember why you’re there and all the effort you made to get where you are today. It’s about enjoying the journey to where you want to get to, the people you meet, and the things you learn along the way. Your experiences shape your confidence and mindset, so be open to whatever comes your way!

What is meant for you will find you, no matter where or how far you go.

Giuliana is a Contributing National Writer for Her Campus, and the former Editor-In-Chief and President of Her Campus at Lynn. She recently graduated from Lynn University, with a BS in Marketing, Fashion & Retail and International Business Management. Among a lot of passions, Giuliana shows a high interest in the Publishing and the Marketing Industry. She is the author of the latest book "Brand You: How to Achieve Success through Personal Branding," which was published in May 2021. The book provides a new perspective on personal branding and personal marketing. One of her biggest dreams is to continue growing her own brand and help other people achieve success through their uniqueness. Giuliana is also a sister of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, and member of Golden Key International Honour Society and Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society for Business, Management and Administration.