Life lessons learned while studying abroad

By Lauren Alexander, edited by Valeri Boyle
Published November 12, 2012

I love talking to strangers

I acquired this skill on the flight over to my study abroad in Australia. The couple next to me on the plane told me all about the best beaches to visit and day trips to register for. The rest of my time abroad, I continued to talk to whomever looked interesting; every person had a fascinating journey, and was willing to share. As soon as they heard that I had an accent, they instantly wanted to know more about me. Since I’ve been back, if I hear someone with an accent, it is far easier for me now, to go up to them and ask “where are you from?” You never know who you’re going to meet.

I’m a risk taker

While being abroad, I had a “why not” and “who cares” mentality. You’d think this mentality would only work in a dream world, or vacation – but you’d be surprised at how beneficial it can be in America. I so often would get into this tedious schedule where every day was the same and nothing interesting happened. If I take risks, even so small as applying for a job I am not qualified for, or taking the long way home, just because it’s more beautiful, life soon becomes far more interesting.

I got the second glance on my job application

After adding my study abroad experience to my resume, I have gotten so many “oos and aahs”. In my opinion, this is always one of the first things future employers ask about – how was being abroad? Even though we all known this is such a challenging question, be prepared to answer! Think of what skills you’ve learned abroad (maybe some detailed here…) which you could talk about in your cover letter or interview.

I’ve encouraged others to go abroad

I’ve inspired so many other students to apply not only for my abroad university, but to study abroad programs in general. When other student check out my abroad photos, they often say: “wow – that’s the most beautiful place in the world.” My response is: “the photos don’t do it justice, go see for yourself.” Seriously though, have you seen my pictures? The more you rave about your experience, the more you motivate others to explore the world and all of its amazing cultures.

I’m passionate

While abroad I observed others behaviors and beliefs, and came to the conclusion that many people only do things they love. They study what they love, volunteer where they feel connected, and apply for jobs which they are passionate about. In my experiences in America, many people do extracurricular activities because they will look good on a resume. I’ve learned to stop trying to impress people with a 5 page resume, and just do what I love to do.

I live in the present

Forget what the future holds, find the beauty now. It seems like a moment ago I was climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and now I’m sitting in the classroom. While abroad, I enjoyed every single moment and always took a second to enjoy the beauty which I was surrounded with. Why should this stop just because I am back home?

I appreciate everything I have

Since I’ve gotten back, I see my minute problems as being insignificant compared to problems in the rest of the world. If you were studying in a third world country, like Danielle did, surely you’d have a much stronger appreciation for iPhones, internet, and running water. When the power went out in Dakar, Danielle dealt with it, and life went on. Be thankful for all that you have.

I have worldly views

It’s important to have an understanding of how other places in the world work, rather than thinking that every country is run the same way as America. Studying in the southern hemisphere, the semesters were different, classes were run differently, and the weather was different, among other things. I learnt about the Australian media and government, which is far different than the US media and government, and I can now consider myself ‘global minded’ because I’ve observed, studied, therefore becoming informed. Prior to studying abroad I was naïve in thinking that the radio is dying, and all politicians produce nasty attack ads; that’s not the case everywhere in the world. I really had to study how other cultures are run in order to accept, and be comfortable in another culture - this is an essential skill. There’s a noticeable difference between global minded people, and closed minded people.

Lauren Alexander studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia in 2011. She is currently working towards a BA in Communication and Theater at American University in Washington, DC.