Let’s face it: our big, big world is, actually, a really small place. Globalization cannot be stopped or “rewinded”. Budget airlines, night buses and fast trains connect us so easily, in terms of movilization. (Unfortunately, these means of transport do not exist in every country or continent – you lucky Europeans).
We see more and more people travelling around and experiencing things that we just wonder if we will ever be able to do anything alike. If you want to embrace new cultures, meet new people and practice that foreign language you had learnt in high school; but you are afraid that a gap year or volunteering might interfere with your career, or your parents would not approve or whatever reason why you simply cannot do it… then, why not be friends with international students in your city… or even go to study abroad? Life takes place in a global scale – you should too!
Here are seven reasons to encourage you to be friends with or become an international student yourself. Yes, I will try to convince you. Yes, I am completely biased.
THE INTERCULTURAL ATMOSPHERE
I must admit that I am completely in love with multicultural places. I even find it boring to speak one single language per day and meet people from only one nationality every single week.
In an atmosphere where there are many cultures coexisting together, you can learn a large quantity of lessons from each one of those people. You understand the world better, why each society is the way it is. You learn not only to tolerate, but also to appreciate.
Besides, how fun is it to drink tequila shots and dance to latin music with the Mexicans? How amazing is it to see the Italians cook and then eat delicious pasta with them? How funny is it to dare the Taiwanese to pronounce a spanish-like “R”? Those little moments are priceless, and that each of you is from another place only brings more excitement into daily situations.
THE LANGUAGE EXCHANGE
Definitely, the first words you will be taught in any foreign language are insults… and you
will not always be told their real meaning. It is normal. Once you get over the embarrassment of greeting your russian female friend with a cheerful “Ты сука” because your other russian-speaking male friend told you that is a special form to say “hello, how are you?” to girls, you will be enthusiastic once again about learning new words. You will be eventually forgiven for calling your friend a b*tch.
After that initial stage of mockery is over, you will start teaching your language and improving or learning another one, or even more than one if you are lucky! No one is better than a native speaker when you need to practice your speaking skills or ask crucial questions about the language. If you are friends, they will (probably) be patient. Plus, you want to learn their mother tongue! That is definitely so exciting to them.
According to my own and personal experience from the four times I mingled into international atmospheres while living abroad, fitting in is much easier. Feeling as if you are a part of the group is quicker. You feel as if you belong, because nobody truly belongs to where you are right now, even if it feels like home. Each of you comes from another city, or even hemispheres. Nobody grew up with the same socialization agents.
When you go abroad alone and mingle with people who did the same, connections are formed rapidly since you are going through the same situation. You have people who understand how it feels to be alone, not to speak the local language fluently, to be far away from everything and everyone you have ever known. You know what they are experiencing, and help each other through, until you feel completely comfortable with the situation. You just feel like you belong there, with them.
THE OPENING OF THE MIND
The fact that people from all over the globe are now surrounding you, break the imaginary bubble in which you had lived for so long. You will become more flexible towards traditions or ways that are not your own. You will accept that things are not only the way in which you have always done them. You will like the fact that things you never imagined should happen, are actually a good idea sometimes. Beware, it is a bilateral mutual surprise.
THE BREAKING OF STEREOTYPES
You will face some situations when you will tell yourself “this is why they say that people from X country are Y, and it is totally true”. I admit it. Some stereotypes exist because there are people who are indeed that way. For example, I have never met a Spanish person who was just plain boring – they seem to have that spark of happiness shining within them the whole time. I have never met an Italian who seemed shabby – they have an a
wesome sense of fashion and appear to be nicely groomed all the time. Nevertheless, this is not a rule, exceptions always exist.
Many other stereotypes are just missconceptions, and exceptions are normal. Not all people from Chile are have a strange accent, not all people from Argentina can dance Tango, not all people from Peru have a pet llama, not all people from Venezuela eat arepas daily. It is just plain wrong to judge people by the stereotype from their country. People are just the way they are.
THE CRAZY EXPERIENCES
Oh yeah, you read it right.
Crazy. Wild. Adventurous. Unforgettable. Breath-taking.
Once-in-a-lifetime things. International students tend to be a little bit more reckless and “YOLO” than normal students. They are living in that place for a limited time and know it will be over sooner than expected; therefore, they leave proscrastination behind and seize the day, for real. Movies. Partying. Cooking. Day excursions. Weekend getaways. They will surely sign up for almost anything which means having fun. You will literally not know how they fit studying and sleeping into their tight agenda. Do they actually go to class, anyways? Yes. They do. And most of them even keep a high average as well, somehow.
They put emphasis on travelling as well. Student-budget travelling. Definitely, one of the best ways to discover the place (or continent!) with like-minded people.
They will most surely inspire you to do more, to take what life has to offer and be thankful of living this part of your life with them.
THE BONDS CREATED
The friendships that you forge during your University years are most of the time very strong. But, they are no comparison to the friendships you can make while studying abroad or while they were studying in your town. These ones, somehow, are much, much stronger. Maybe because you start over from scratch in an unknown place.
Perhaps because you let yourself be who you truly are without being afraid. It might be because the experiences you lived together are so unique, that they have seriously made an impact on your life.
Even if you distance yourselves with time, you will never be who you were before meeting them. Even if your connection fades through the months, you will never forget how it felt to connect. Even if your communication ends, you will never forget them – and they will not forget you.
Seriously, going international is one of the best things that you can ever do for yourself.
Besides all the practical and theoretical knowledge you will acquire,
you will embrace life and look through brand new eyes.
What are you waiting for?
Dedicated to and inspired by my Hesperia team, my BHMS family, my Schöne Raga and all the great people I met on the way.
I am in no way advertising or being financially rewarded by Hesperia Hotels, Business and Hotel Management School (BHMS) or Erasmus Student Network (ESN) by mentioning their names, despite the fact that I have had amazing experiences thanks to them.