The Secret Benefits of Being an Ex-Pat
Preparing to embark on a life as an ex-patriot can be an extremely challenging time. Living overseas can be tough. There is no doubt about it. I have spent about half of my life overseas in 8 different countries – I know that living overseas can be challenging. Being separated from family for a long period of time is not a lot of fun. Moreover, the price of airline travel can severely restrict the number of visits with family and friends back home. Living in a new culture can be intimidating, especially if it is someone's first trip abroad. The new cost of living can also tighten your budget and change the way you live your everyday life. Despite all these challenges, living overseas brings multiple long-term benefits.
First, living overseas develops an unparalleled appreciation for different cultures, viewpoints, and ways of life. Living in a different country and being immersed in a new culture can truly open your eyes to the world. This can yield tremendous benefits and advantages later in life. For children, these experiences can inspire to pursue interesting career paths that lead them overseas. Additionally, experience in travelling, and learning new languages and cultures can provide an immense boost to performance in school and college applications. Many universities place a lot of value in applicants having life experiences overseas. Often, people that have spent extended periods of time overseas are more mature and self-aware. Lastly, living overseas can bring an endless number of life-long foreign friends. Besides the friendship, this also guarantees you a place to stay when you go back for visits!
In order to overcome the challenges of living overseas and truly reap the benefits of a life abroad, I would make a few recommendations. First, try to minimize the culture shock when you first arrive at your destination by reading literature on the country. Lonely Planet provides an excellent line of travel books that also really give an insight into the local culture. Rough Guides also provides an off-the-beaten-path account of various countries and their respective cultures.
Another important element to enjoying your time overseas is learning the language. Understanding the language of a country can really help you understand the people and culture. Before leaving, think about taking language courses on-line. I have found Rosetta Stone to give a solid foundation in a language fairly quickly. Word2word.com also provides great language courses on-line and has a huge amount of free resources at your disposal.
Lastly, when you arrive in the country try to keep an open-mind. Most people that I know who live overseas and have bad experiences do not give the new country a chance. Keep an open-mind, have some intellectual and cultural curiosity, and remember that living in a country is a new and exciting experience.