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Character-Forming Experience of Living Abroad

It’s not a surprise that people usually have a number of defining moments in their lives that influence their worldview, attitudes and perceptions a lot. Coming in touch with other nationalities, losing a dear friend, witnessing a crime, having a baby are just a handful of examples of those events. My personality has also been largely shaped by some of such defining moments. In my case, however, it is hard to pinpoint the exact event that was important because it was rather a series of experiences that were all related. The most influential and important experience in my life was living in different places abroad throughout my whole childhood as it gave me an invaluable insight into various cultures, helped to become an independent person, and allowed me to form life-long friendships.

First of all, going abroad I was able to learn a lot about people who were different from the ones I knew. Being born in California and having to move to Egypt at the age of three was the first experience of going away from home. Even though I was quite young I can still remember the change of surroundings. When I was seven I moved to Holland for four years, and then lived in Missouri for additional two years till I finally came back to where I was born. A lot of people would say that it is impossible to learn other cultures in such a short period of time. While this may be partially true it also should be pointed out that it is never possible to understand a given culture to the fullest. Cultures undergo continuous changes and even one’s native culture may present something undiscovered. Getting in touch with other people and being aware of the differences is what matters initially. Being a child it was a natural process for me as children don’t make a conscious effort but rather take in the new things like a sponge.  

Moreover, my experience of living in a number of places has taught me quite early how to be an independent person and take responsibility for my actions. The argument often goes that a person abroad usually gets a free ride in a sense that there is limited responsibility for one’s actions. However, this is not necessarily true, at least not in my personal experience. Since the very young age I was strongly encouraged to take responsibility for my actions and make independent choices that were both educated and considerate of others. Going to different schools and public places in different countries and cities made me become more independent and pushed me to rely on my inner understanding of right and wrong. Reflecting back I can say that my multicultural experience made me a citizen of the world and shaped the understanding of a world as one unified place and not a series of strange and unimportant places.

Finally, my experience was also influential because it gave me an opportunity to make friends all over the world. One might argue that it is impossible to have any kind of deep relationship where long distances are involved and that such friendship would never satisfy the needs of a human being. This argument unfortunately loses its validity because more and more people have rewarding experience with such friendships and have best friends not in the immediate proximity. In fact, I started to appreciate my friends even more precisely because I couldn’t always reach them that easily. This kind of experience teaches people to value their loved ones and develop a whole new set of skills that help maintain such relationship. Patience, flexibility, and commitment are all developed in long-distance friendships.

Living abroad for about ten years of my life has given me a chance to understand different cultures of our world more, taught me to be an independent person, and blessed me with friends that are of crucial importance in my life. This experience is of great importance as it showed me how big the world is and how a life of a single person in a particular country still reflects on the world in general. Such influential experiences in every person’s life allow us to see that we are not that lonely but rather interconnected through all kinds of invisible threads.

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