Nowadays everyone wants to be a nomad or a digital nomad, and even consider the benefits of studying abroad, but what does it really mean to be one? For us it means that you are attached to people and not places; that you are willing to move on to the next place when your “time is up” or you finish what you came to do. That is why we like to consider ourselves as nomads, since we have been living abroad for over 10 years.
We have to clarify that the first time we moved abroad from Mexico (for R) and Colombia for me, it wasn’t our choice. We were going with our family because of our parents’ job at the ripe age of 8 and 14 respectively. Aside from our move as children, we want to share about our journey abroad.
We love our families and countries but moving to a new place after high school just seemed too good of an opportunity not to take it. I mean, who doesn’t want to live by themselves in a different country at 17, right?
Studying Abroad in Paris
By some coincidence of the universe we both chose Paris as our destination. We went to the same university and having a Latino heritage and similar circle of friends brought us together. We both had different reasons for choosing France. For R it was the language, since he is interested in international relations and French is an official language for a diplomatic career. For me it was more of a “I have to see France with my own eyes”, since my mom is a French teacher and I had always been somewhat submerged in the culture.
After living 5 years in Paris, we feel confident to share the reasons why moving abroad or studying abroad is one of the best decisions you will ever make.
Benefits of Studying Abroad
Expands Your Horizons
Living abroad literally expands your horizons.Yes, you are in a different part of the world, but you will also meet so many people from everywhere! Some of our best friends now are from Finland,Indonesia, the U.S. and France (YAY for free accommodation while traveling).
One of the best experiences about meeting people in an international setting is that you learn so much about their culture through all the interactions you have.
You Acclimate Faster
If you’re still in your 20's, then chances are that you might not have a routine set in stone, which makes you more flexible and willing to accommodate. This is a great advantage because you will be able to acclimate faster, and things won’t be as shocking since you will assume it’s part of the change. Eventually you will be buying baguettes after work on your way home so you can eat it with hummus and a cheese wheel while watching wildlife shows in French on cable TV (not that we did that or anything).
You will be able to travel more! This one is probably the best part of everything. As a student you have tons of vacations, long weekends, reading days, etc. So, you can take those opportunities to explore a new city or country! We are aware that we got lucky by being in Europe where low cost airlines fly to almost every city, and there’s always alternative options of buses that can take you almost anywhere.
Exposure to New Cuisines
We are the biggest, self-proclaimed food enthusiasts in the world, but as students, our budget is tight, so what did we do? We learned how to cook! This is honestly one of our favorite activities with friends. We are convinced that the best way to learn about a culture is through its food/kitchen, so ask your new friends to make you their favorite meal! You can go to look for the ingredients (this is a whole experience by itself) and make the food together. Stories and anecdotes will come out and we guarantee you will have a great time-- ideally accompanied by a bottle of côtes du rhône!
Learn a New Language
You will most likely learn a new language. Not only because you are in a different country and you need to communicate, but also because being surrounded by other nationalities and people will inspire you. Even if it is how to say “hello” or “where is the bathroom” in 5 different languages, it’s something! Now we both speak French, some Italian and have a tourist’s vocabulary in Indonesian too!
Graduate Debt Free
You will most likely graduate without debt.This one is really important and not many people realize it. In Europe most of the top schools are public, which means you pay little to nothing for your education. For example, I paid my last year of university with the money I saved from babysitting. Honestly, graduating without debt is a HUGE relief, since you don’t have the pressure to find a job right away in order to pay it off. Now, there are private schools too but most are still cheaper than schools in the U.S for example and you will get extra points on your C.V for being abroad.
If we haven’t convinced you yet...
You will probably find your life partner. Another crazy person that left everything behind to see what is out there and shares some interest with you. And if not, you will definitely have great stories about a “lost in translation moment” and at least one Australian friend!
Some Cons to Balance Things Out
Now, we have to admit that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but the pros outweigh the not-so-good moments (we wouldn’t even call them bad). You will feel frustrated at the immigration office when you have been there 3 times and they still won’t help you find the form that is already open on their computer. You will also miss your family and friends, especially when it’s someone’s birthday and you are not there to celebrate. Or you will wish they were with you to share all the new experiences, but HEY! When they visit, you will have so many things to share and you will open THEIR world too. You will be able to take them to your favorite park, teach them “tourist vocabulary,” experience the culinary delights of the place you are at and introduce them to your new community of friends.
We wouldn’t change life abroad for anything, so much so, that after graduating university we moved to Madrid and started from zero again. Now we know how to deal with the frustration and the feeling of being lost all the time and that is O.K.
We understand this might not be appealing to everyone, but we hope this inspires you to take the chance! Everyone should live abroad at least once, and it doesn’t even need to be far. Who knows, you might like it, and if you don’t, you can always go back home (wherever that might be for you) with experiences and adventures under your belt.
With love M&R