One thing you’ll probably hear more than anything else while you are planning to go abroad is how life-changing your experience abroad will be. People will tell you over and over again how this will be the experience of a lifetime. But there is a reason that so many people will say this, especially people who have been abroad before. Living abroad will change you as a person. Everyone has their own unique experiences, but almost everyone who goes abroad changes in one way or another. Here are some ways that my personality changed while I was abroad.
I became more independent. Nothing will force you to learn how to be independent more than going abroad and living in a foreign country, whether it be for a few weeks or an entire year. For me, I went to France on an exchange program, so I traveled to France completely alone and knew no one there when I arrived. I lived alone as well, so I was personally responsible for every aspect of my life abroad. Due to the time differences, I couldn’t always reach out to my family or friends for advice when I was struggling to figure out the challenges of my new living situation, so I had to learn to live independently and make my own decisions.
I became more open to trying new things. This is probably a pretty obvious one, but an important one nonetheless. Living in a new culture means that many things in your daily life will be new to you. Flexibility is important when you are travelling abroad, and if you are not already a flexible person, you will probably become one during your experience abroad. I was a very picky eater before I went abroad, but while I was in France I didn’t have the same options for food as I did in America. I had to learn to try new foods or go hungry, and in the process I discovered a lot of foods I ended up loving.
I became more confident. This was probably the biggest change to my personality while I was abroad. Before I went abroad I was a very shy person, and I was still a shy person while I was abroad, but I also became much more confident in myself. While I was abroad, I had to learn to adapt to a new environment and speak a foreign language on a day to day basis. Although at first I was self-conscious that I stuck out as a foreigner, over time I stopped worrying so much about how others perceived me because I had no choice but to live my life every day, foreigner or not. Learning how to navigate a new culture made me more confident in who I am and what I am capable of doing.
Caitlin Smith is a senior at the University of Kentucky studying French and Sociology. She studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France during the Spring 2016 semester.