I really encourage you to live abroad! OK, let me back up. The number of times I find myself grateful for having lived abroad only increases with time. I learned so many things I could never have otherwise learned.
First, I have to thank my parents and everyone who supported my decision to study abroad in Ireland in college. I didn’t realize it was a hard choice to support, until September 11, 2001, two days before my scheduled departure, when it got a lot harder. Thank you, thank you for giving me confidence and being strong, even if you were faking it.
The experience abroad was exceptionally positive and I think I should credit some of it to my home university for making sure it started on the right foot. Every student enrolled abroad had to first attend an orientation that had a well-written message that in the nicest possible way basically said, “You are a spoiled, uncultured, narrow-minded, rude American and you must humble and open yourself to the new ideas and cultures that will change who you are forever.” So many Americans are raised in an intolerant bubble, it was good to be given full license to challenge my old ideas and engross myself in new ones. Not to mention, I appreciated being told to be mindful of accidental rudeness on my part.
So, I arrived in Europe in the wake of 9/11 and was embraced with sympathy, and it seemed the event hurt them as much as it did us. It was interesting seeing the less-censored media covering the event, leaving a less warm-fuzzy feeling about the whole situation than I had at home. It wasn’t long before the actions of the United States changed European attitude toward our country. We Americans no longer spoke when among large numbers of people, in hopes of hiding our nationality. Those back home would never have understood the concept of not being “proud” to be American. At home we seemed to believe everyone loved us.
Aside from learning different views of world events and the U.S.A. in general, I learned new ways of valuing family, education, history, careers… I was fortunate to live with a loving family, whom I’m still friends with today, and have been lucky enough to tour my hometown with.
If nothing else, living abroad will burst that American bubble and give you a better understanding and true appreciation of everyone else in the world, as well as home. And that is priceless.