Valuable Life Lessons I Learned From Living Abroad

Valuable Life Lessons That I Learned From Living Abroad

This is almost one of those quite annoying “how traveling changed me” posts, but I hope you will bear with me and read about the insights I’ve had through these past 6 years. In all honesty it has changed me and it still is, in so many ways. Even if all my stays abroad have been quite short, under 1 year, with my current stay in both southern (Montpellier) and northern (Amsterdam) Europe being the longest so far, they have all changed me in different ways.

Jasmine Zelda in NIce, France

Holidaying in Nice, France, August 2015

What I learned from 5 experiences abroad in 4 countries:

SWEDEN: About relationships
My very short stay of two months in Sweden in 2009 taught me that a relationship shouldn’t stand in the way of your dreams and that if there’s no trust, there is no relationship to even keep alive. I do believe a long-distance relationship is doable (as some of my friends have proven), but only as long as you have a plan to be together in the near future sometime, if you can trust each other fully and if you can keep up good communication. If you lack any of these factors, it might not be lasting very long.

[…] if there’s no trust, there is no relationship […]

FRANCE: About independence
The first time around in France, as a young 19-year old Disneyland Paris employee in 2010, I learned a lot about myself. First thing was that I am capable of leaving everything and of taking care of myself in a place where I don’t know anyone from before. Second thing I had to learn was to communicate in a different language and even use hand signals if needed, due to lack of language proficiency. There I met some of my very best friends, whom are still in my life 6 years later. Third big thing I learned was that I really want to work in an international environment, I like the variation, the cultures and the way you have to communicate as a team to make your job work out. I really became more independent after those five months, and learned that I can make a life for myself anywhere if I want to.

Last but not least; Paris is always a good idea!

Notre-Dame, Paris, France

Notre-Dame, Paris, France. 2010.

USA: About different cultures, diversity and acceptance
The first longer move I did was to the US in 2013 for nine months. I learned that a decision made in the heat of the moment can be very good, but a bit scary and also a bit crazy. It was a nice year and this is when I discovered the perks of solo traveling. But most importantly I learned so much about cultures very different from my own and I will always cherish those talks especially with my Lebanese, Egyptian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Peruvian, Japanese and Vietnamese friends.

Who could imagine life is so different for people in the same age as oneself, but you just happen to be born in different countries and realities?

That year I had to learn to accept a lot of different ways of thinking and acting, mostly due to the very diverse mix of people that I surrounded myself with. I also learned that, moving abroad doesn’t solve your inner problems, but it does give you a lot of peace of mind, puts distance to the issues and puts everything into another perspective – which in the end ended up solving most of them, slowly but steadily.

Related reading: Studying Abroad In USA Highlights

Darien Lake Amusement Park, NY, International students group photo

The international students on a trip to Darien Lake Amusement Park. In this photo we find the following nationalities: Lebanese, Egyptian, Finnish, Scottish, Polish, Ukrainian, Ethiopian, Albanian, Peruvian and Hong Kongian (how to conjugate this?). September 2013.

FRANCE: About freeing yourself from everything, allowing yourself to have fun and letting your guard down
So last August I ended up in France again. I was curious to see if a second time around in the country would leave me with different experiences than 5 years previously. And boy did it! I absolutely love southern France, and can proudly call Montpellier a place that will always have a little piece of my heart. But as with everything, good things have to come to an end, and I learned that I couldn’t actually see myself living in France for the foreseeable future, so now I know that. Those 8 months I really opened myself up to new things, put myself in situations very out of my comfort zone, made friends with very many people; both local and international. I even dared myself to casually date, I found my confidence again (and also lost it momentarily), I forced myself to learn a language and I had less worries in general about everything.

My comfort zone was tested to the max: integrating with local students, forcing myself to learn French when I finally got the courage to start talking, and my own Finnish Nightmare: salsa classes.

Hiking Pic St Loup, Montpellier, France.

Hiking Pic St Loup, Montpellier, France. October, 2015.

When I left for France in August 2015, I was very anxious about leaving – again – but it ended up being one of the best things I’ve decided to do so far. It was for sure some of the most uncomplicated months in my life and I definitely needed that, both for my peace of mind and physically. I think I just became a more relaxed person in general, which Aoife did point out when she visited me recently, and I started to take more care of myself both mentally and physically. I mean I did manage to lose 15 kg during my exchange, which usually is the other way around. Life just seemed so uncomplicated there!

Related reading: A reflection over first semester of Erasmus exchange in France

Les Filles, Erasmus Montpellier

Les Filles

NETHERLANDS: About finding a permanent plan and direction
When I in the end of April this year embarked on that very early train from Montpellier to Paris, and further to Amsterdam, I couldn’t imagine waking up in a country that I am now actually considering moving permanently to. I find myself quite at peace here. I can’t say I have really found “my place” here yet, but I’m in no rush. I know everything will settle down when I am ready to. Well, I guess only time will tell if I will be back after graduating sometime next year. It’s interesting how I think the culture here is so similar to the one back home in the north, but yet so different. But it feels close enough for me to become a part of it. Here I think I found some routine and direction in my life, and now I have a bit clearer for me what I want for my future.

Related reading: From sunny Montpellier to rainy Amsterdam with love

Amsterdam canals

Amsterdam canals, summer 2016.

Even if my plan wasn’t to stay abroad this long, it has worked out quite well so far. I know I’m stretching my return to Finland the longest possible at the moment, but I will be back in October and that might be the last time I move back home for a long time. I mean I’m not 100% sure what I want to do after I graduate, but the more time I spend somewhere else than home, the more sure I become of my decision to leave for a life outside of Finland’s borders.

Cafe de Plantagen Amsterdam. June, 2016

Cafe de Plantagen Amsterdam. June, 2016

I have no exact reason for wanting to move, it’s more a question about all these small things. While I love Finland as a country to live in and I do miss a lot of things about living there, well mostly friends, family and our dogs, there’s still so many things that make me happier abroad. One thing is definitely people’s attitudes and open-mindedness. In general I feel people are more open-minded and have better attitudes abroad, concerning a lot of things. Even in this chaotic climate in Europe at the moment with the refugee crisis, Brexit and what-else-not, I feel more European than Finnish. Even if technically it is, or should be, the same thing.

I might have a slight identity crisis as a result from all my moves? Maybe that’s my biggest life lesson: you start losing your identity as one stagnant thing, you get used to change and your personality morphs into small pieces that make up the puzzle that is you.

Prague with Cristina. John Lennon Wall. February 2016

Prague with Cristina. John Lennon Wall. February 2016.

Let me know: what have your biggest life lessons been? How did you learn them?

Jasmine Zelda blog signature

8 Comments

  • Lina July 14, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Vilket fint inlägg! Har funderat på att sommarjobba i Stockholm nästa sommar, då jag skulle ha ett jobb fixat där. Men är inte säker på att skulle kunna klara mig själv där och våga lämna allt och alla, lite tips och vad tycker du?

    Reply
    • JasmineZelda July 14, 2016 at 8:10 pm

      Hej Lina! Tack och vad kul att du tog dig tid att kommentera! 🙂 Första steget är definitivt att inte tänka för mycket! Man måste lära sig att ta saker lite som de kommer och kunna vara förberedd på en förändring, det lär man sig efter ett tag helt enkelt. Första gången jag flyttade längre bort, dvs. till Paris, så var jag i en skräckblandad glädje. Och vet du vad, jag var 19 år, ung och fortfarande ganska oerfaren i många aspekter, men jag klarade mig hur bra som helst! Det viktigaste är att skapa ett nätverk åt sig, det behöver inte handla om tjugotals människor, utan vara öppen och mingla mycket i alla fall i början och få didär första bra vännerna. Sedan är allt hur kul som helst! Om det är att lämna allt och alla som skrämmer dig, så rekommenderar jag att fundera på vad du egentligen har att förlora på att vara en sommar borta? Vi lider ju av så hemsk fomo dessa dagar, men måste ärligt säga att fast jag saknar vänner och familj enormt mycket, så vet jag att allt är sånär som samma hemma ändå. Gör en lista på pros and cons, det gjorde jag före jag flyttade till Montpellier och pros övervägde i slutändan så mycket mer och gud sådan bra upplevelse jag hade! 🙂 Jag skulle säga att kör på, vi är fortfarande unga och borde se mera av världen och lära oss att kliva bort från vår comfort zone. “Rather regret the things you did, than the things you didn’t do”, lever jag by. Hoppas detta hjälpte dig lite i alla fall och fråga på om du funderar annat! 🙂

      Reply
      • Lina July 16, 2016 at 8:40 pm

        tack tack TACK för det fina svaret! Håller helt med om vad du skriver, det är väl bara att köra. Hellre ångra än undra!

        Reply
        • JasmineZelda July 17, 2016 at 11:29 pm

          Inga problem, hjälper gärna till om jag bara kan 🙂 Jaa exakt! Så har jag kört de senaste åren och gud jag har nog levt mitt liv kan jag säga 😀

          Reply
  • Sofia July 14, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I really loved this post! Cuz I always wanted to try living abroad. I’ve been living almost all my life in finland (too), and the early years of my life in Ethiopia. So, I was just wondering did you know anybody before heading/moving to new country, or where you just by yourself (sorry, if you told it already and i just didn’t see it). Was there lot of stuff to do before moving or was it quite simple?

    Reply
    • JasmineZelda July 14, 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Sofia! Thank you and thank you for taking time to comment! 🙂 Well, when I moved to Sweden really briefly in 2009, I lived at my grandma’s and half my family is from there. To Paris in 2010 I moved without knowing a soul and that was what was the most scary, but also one of the most exciting things, because for the first time in my life I could be myself without being judged from my past or having everyone around me know everything about me (I’m originally from a very small town, Hanko, in the south, where everyone pretty much knows everyone), so it was nice for once to just be my own standing alone person. To the US I decided to move by my own choice, but later I got to know another girl I knew was also going to the same college so we ended up traveling together and spending time together there. But we didn’t know each other superwell before. And Montpellier I was also going by myself, but also another girl from my uni went there at the same time. And Amsterdam I had some acquaintances, but have pretty much built my own network here. All in all I headed onto these adventures by myself! 🙂 From Finland it’s quite easy to move to another EU country. Book a flight, have your passport and go. Depending on country it might crave a little paperwork or a lot of paperwork. Netherlands was pretty easy even if it was a lot in the beginning (but most is online), whereas France is known for its bureaucratic ways and it might take a long while to get things sorted out. I recommend to research the country you want to move to in beforehand and collect all papers needed while you’re in Finland and take everything with you. It’s not so much fuss in the end, depending on what you’re going to do i.e. study abroad through a program, move independently, move to work etc. There’s a lot of support you can get from expat communities/websites, also institutions in Finland that an help you. Good thing to note is that if you live outside of Finland for more than a year, the Finnish social security won’t cover you anymore. Thanks for this question, might turn into a blog post soon! 🙂

      Reply
  • Jenn - forever abroad July 14, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    I’ve also lived in many places during the 4 last years and recognize your feelings and learnings. And I must say, I do feel you on the last paragraph about identity…! I got used to moving every 6th month so now that I’ve been staying for a year in one place (Finland, Helsinki) it’s actually been really challenging.

    Reply
    • JasmineZelda July 14, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      Thank you and thanks for your comment 🙂 Nice that you can relate, means that I am not alone!! Yes, either you get used to not attaching yourself to a place, or you stay longer and it gets harder and harder to leave. Where have you lived before? And how do you like Helsinki? 🙂

      Reply

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