It’s hard to leave university, start a career, and live in a new country without changing a little bit. I like to think that my core identity is still the same, but that maybe I’ve improved myself in some way since these changes occurred.
I’m a better listener and communicator
When the majority of your day involves communicating with people you have very little common language with, strong listening and communication skills become essential. When my days consisted purely of English, I could half-listen to the people around me and understand what they were talking about. But I often wasn’t really listening. I might hear all the words, but I wouldn’t necessarily be engaged enough to pick-up on all the little things like gestures and tone of voice.
Now that those hints of communication are essential to understanding many of the people around me, I’m a lot more engaged in conversation and have trained myself to read these more. With this learning, I’ve also become more competent using these in my own communication. My hope is that I will continue this learning, and be able to apply it even when communicating with other fluent English speakers.
I’m less stressed/anxious
My levels of stress and anxiety have become exceedingly more manageable than the last few years in university. Of course, this is a combination of how I’ve changed and how my life and environment have.
Naturally, leaving behind the high-stress environment of university with endless papers and exams, high expectations, and no money has been key in reducing my stress levels. To complement this lifestyle change, I’ve also spent a great deal of time reflecting on the things that create stress and anxiety in my life, and modifying my routines to eliminate or reduce these causes.
I find a lot more time for myself, and have learned to not feel guilty about it. I give myself days where I can enjoy face masks, DIY manicures, a good book, and endless cups of tea. The best part is that I’m way more productive than I ever was in school.
There’s so much time for exploring the beautiful landscapes Korea has to offer! Relaxing in nature is one of my favourite ways to spend time here.
Ditching the stress and anxiety (for the most part) has also helped me to be a far more positive person. I’m more inclined to make the best of difficult situations and look at them as learning experiences and stories to tell. I have more control over any negative emotions, and I can deal with life’s challenges far more effectively.
I’m shifting towards minimalism
As a poor student that moved every few months, minimalism was always on my radar. The idea of saving money through reduced consumption and having less to move from home to home was appealing. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I moved to Korea where I have a large two-bedroom apartment, the longest time spent in one home since I left high school, and a comfortable salary, that I’ve started to actually commit to minimalist practices and ideals.
Having the opportunity to travel multiple times a year has made me think a lot harder about the balance between money and material things. The less I buy, the more I have to spend exploring the world around me. I also keep in the back of my mind the fact that I will have to move my entire life back to Canada at some point via airplane, so my belongings need to be limited.
Starting off fresh with just two suitcases of belongings has put “needs” and “material things” in perspective. I find myself “needing” less and less as I grow more accustomed to living with fewer belongings. I feel stress bubble up when I think about all the crap I have back at my parents’ house. Crap that I felt was so important to keep that I left it behind to take up space in my old bedroom.
How has living abroad shaped you?