My 5 Favourite Things about Living Abroad (and why you should try it!)

UVic gives you great opportunities to go abroad to enhance your studies. Over my degree, I’ve seized those opportunities! I’ve lived abroad twice during my degree, once for an international exchange to the Netherlands and now for a CAPI internship in Japan, and can say that, without a doubt, it’s the best experience for personal growth and learning. 

So, without further ado, here are my favourite things about living abroad! And don’t forget to check out my post on all the ways you can go abroad at UVic after!

1. It’s not as expensive as you may think

While yes, you’re generally spending more money doing touristy things than you would back home, living abroad isn’t actually as expensive as one may think.

In the Netherlands, my rent was right on par with that in Victoria, and I stuck to my budget to stay on track with my spending and found lots of free activities and events to keep me occupied. Of course I spent more on travel, but my day-to-day life wasn’t that much pricier than my life in Victoria.

If you’re worried about losing cash-flow when you go on exchange, your student visa will usually permit you to work, so you could always pick up a part-time job! And, as a bonus, UVic offers international funding opportunities to help students go abroad!

Each time I’ve lived abroad, I’m surprised at how “cheap” it is. When I think of going abroad, I always think of travel and how pricey it can be. But when you’re not paying for hotels and tourist excursions and eating at restaurants every night, it’s just like living your normal life at home—with the added benefit of basically everything being new and exciting.

2. You learn about yourself

Yokohama’s Chinatown, the largest in Japan, explored on my own one day off from work.

Going on exchange was a big eye-opener for me—not just about the world around me, but about myself as well.

My whole life, I’ve suffered from anxiety, and was worried about how that may impact me while being completely alone in a foreign country. I was anxious about being anxious (fun, right?).

Once arriving, and adjusting, I found that I was able to deal with my anxiety and learned just how capable I was, maneuvering in a new culture and language, and grew so proud of myself and my capabilities. (If you suffer from anxiety and are worried about going abroad, read William’s recent post about his experience with anxiety while studying abroad in Copenhagen!)

Another way you learn about yourself is by spending a lot of time alone. The first couple months of living abroad, you’ll often find yourself alone, something everyone who moves away from home goes through at some point. Back home, I’m constantly surrounded by roommates and friends and family, whereas while abroad, I often find myself spending most of my time alone.

I’ve had to learn to enjoy my own company and do things by myself, something that is a trigger for my anxiety and I have difficulty with, coming from a large family. It can be difficult at times, but looking back, I’m grateful to have had these opportunities to learn how to keep myself from getting lonely. Living abroad has forced me to find “strength in solitude,” as explained by my friend and fellow CAPI Intern Kaylin in her recent blog post!

In Japan, each day I continue to learn something new about myself, triggered by the world around me. It might be that I am picking up Japanese quicker than expected, or that I can reach out and make friends through my own initiative, or simply that I really don’t like fried food when that’s all the restaurant serves, but I’m learning each day and getting to know myself better.

3. You get to meet new people

While it might be nerve-wracking at first, moving to a new place without knowing anyone, one of the best parts of this is you get to meet so many new people, often from so many different places. In each place I’ve lived, I’ve found friends easily despite making new friends being something I’ve struggled doing in the past. It helps when everyone is in the same boat, looking for friends (think first days of first year).

Sara & Frazer during a bike ride into the city, whom I met during my exchange in the Netherlands. Sara (another UVic Geography student), Frazer (UK), and I became fast friends during our exchange.

Through my friends who I’ve met abroad, I learn even more about the places they’re fromwhether that be their culture, their current events and politics, or their language and slang. This is one of the best parts of living abroad: making lifelong friends whether they be from Canada or somewhere else in the world!

4. FOOD!

One of the many bowls of ramen I’ve had since living in Japan.

I’m not a big foodie at home, but there’s something about eating the food of another country that I love. In the Netherlands, it was the cheese and pastries. In Japan, it’s sushi and ramen and… well, everything. Trying out all the fun or traditional foods another country has to offer is one of my favourite ways to ‘sightsee’ while abroad.

Each country and culture has such a different approach to cuisine, and to me it’s one of the highlights of living abroad and one of the best parts of living in a new place. Food is often one of the most unique elements of a place’s culture, and I truly believe the best way into a culture is through its food!

5. And finally… you get to travel!

Of course, one of the main reasons people live abroad: to travel! A big reason I went on exchange to the Netherlands was because I wanted to travel, and saw going on exchange as the perfect way to continue my studies and get to travel at the same time. As an exchange student or international co-op student or intern, you’ll often have lots of free time to travel on weekends or class breaks—just check out all the travel posts from MyUVic Life bloggers in the past!

Seoul, South Korea, on a weekend trip from Tokyo.

Sintra, Portugal, on a semester break trip while at Utrecht University.

Travelling around the country you’re living in, and the countries nearby, is so much easier and more enjoyable (and cheaper!) when you have a home base to return to after each trip.

If you’re worried about how you might fare on the other side of the world, surrounded by foreign language and culture—don’t be. It’s never as different as you might think, and I guarantee you’ll find your people and settle into routines and be able to manage your way in this new, alien environment, even if you don’t speak a word of the language.

So, ready to go abroad? Find out how!

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