As arguably the first global generation, millennials are an incredibly fortunate group. Growing up in an age of globalization, we have been exposed to international developments that shaped the way we perceive the world: on a global, rather than local, basis. With relatively cheap flights to take us to the ends of the Earth (physically), and Skype to keep us grounded (emotionally), these days it’s pretty simple to spin a globe and jet off to wherever your finger lands. And while traveling is important in its own right, living abroad is a very different experience that is an important part of any millennial’s journey. Here are seven reasons why:
For most people, there is no better time than your twenties to live abroad. If you’re lucky, it’s a time when you’re not necessarily tied down by external commitments to family life, a certain location, or financial debts (with the exception of student loans!). Options for continuing education and settling down will be there to return to after time abroad, but tracing the reverse trajectory is much more difficult.
If you’re young and mobile, you can acclimate more easily to the challenges of living abroad – which actually often compel you to grow up more than if you had stayed closer to home. When you’re off on your own in a foreign country, you’re forced to carve out a life and become fully responsible for yourself.
This is an obvious point, especially if you’re living abroad while studying. But more than classroom work alone, living abroad is an education in all areas of life. Cold and hot water always come out of separate taps? No one drinks milk? The details of daily life are often the most enlightening pieces of information to acquire abroad.
In the increasingly international world of business, it’s often a huge plus to have experience living and working abroad on your resume. Whether you’re considering a career in education or economic analysis, serious experience living or working abroad demonstrates that you’re enterprising and adaptable (and language skills are always good too).
Creating an international network of friends and colleagues is one of the most lasting and valuable benefits of living abroad. Meeting and working with people from across the globe shrinks the world to a personal and comprehensible size. Social networks make it easier than ever to stay in touch with far-flung friends, and it’s always nice to have an excuse to go visit people in distant destinations.
5. Comparative Perspectives
Living in a society that’s quite different from the one you grew up in instantly challenges your understanding of the status quo. It forces you to think beyond preconceived notions of what’s normal, and consider novel approaches to government, politics, lifestyles, and all the rest.
6. Appreciating Home
Does distance make the heart grow fonder? For most expats I know, living abroad strengthens your ties to home in ways you would never expect. It forces you to consider what’s closest to you from a distance, and it becomes easier to appreciate what you would otherwise take for granted (the good, the bad, and eccentric).
7. Empathy and Humility
More than anything else, living abroad forces you to remove your nation, your viewpoints, and yourself from the center of the universe. It becomes clear that no area, no group, and no one is necessarily more important than any other entity. Traditions and cultures shift from place to place, but when living abroad, it is just a little bit easier to grasp how homogeneous humanity’s landscape is.