The travel Q & A topic today is: ” Exchange Programs: How to decide where to live abroad?”
I got an interesting letter from 15 year old Caprice, who lives in Australia. She has a huge decision to make about what country she should choose to do her language exchange in. She has a handful of languages she’s interested in learning as well as a handful of awesome countries she wouldn’t mind living in, because they have the languages. She asked me what my insights are on those countries and how to make a decision.
Even at my age, I struggle with decision-making and travel planning. Travel ultimately, helps us to know ourselves better, because it forces us to navigate the mystery of foreign things and dealing with the unknown. It forces us to bump into things we’ll either, like or dislike.
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Deciding what’s the best country for you to live in?
First of all, what I’m going to say is let’s take the names of the countries out of this. Let’s just leave this space for you…. and what you want. We can wax the pros and cons the whole day, we could do it for a week, we could do it for a year…
But basically these are all lukewarm ideas. They’re practical, they’re logical, but not necessarily are they things that you really, really, really, really want. This (lukewarm ideas) is not a place you’d necessarily want to start at. It’s a place you want to end up in.
Exchange Programs: Mastering a Language vs. Experiencing a Country
First of all, I think you have to ask yourself this question ~
Is my goal to master a language? Or is it to have an experience?
They’re two different questions. One is based on what your study goals are and the other is what type of every day lifestyle and leisure you’d like to enjoy. They do kinda merge, because you’d be learning a language in a different country. But in essence, they’re two different questions and they can provide two different answers.
If you’re looking at mastering a language, try asking yourself~ what language do I feel jazzed about (what do I want to learn)? If you go with that feeling about a language, then it already tells you what country you want to be in. If your goal is to experience a country, then your goal for mastering a language is probably going to be secondary to you. Then it’s about ~
What kind of experience do I want to feel, what kind of lifestyle do I want to live
or to be challenged with?
What is your dream country to live in?
So you want to go with something that just excites you. (With something) that makes you feel like ~ “Aww! I really want to do this! I”ll just die if I don’t do it”. It’s like being in a room of hot guys and you have to make a choice about which one you want to go steady with. There are all these options… a rocker, jock, nerd… How do you choose?
Basically, we choose what we vibe with! It’s the one that gets you really jazzed, when you think about it.
The Reality Check: The difference between dating a country vs. marrying it
Pick two or three of those, because now comes your lukewarm ideas and your reality of~
- “Is it possible… is it doable?”
- “Do I have the budget for it?”
- “Realistically, do I really want to live there or do I want to visit there?”
Then start asking yourself the bigger questions… Do you want to date this country or marry it?
When you’re looking for an exchange abroad, you’re pretty much in the marrying zone. Do you want to marry a country that is convenient and similar to your own? How far do you want to be pushed outside your comfort zone?
Can you see yourself eating Chinese food everyday? Can you imagine yourself sterilizing your drinking water or the water you use to brush your teeth every day? In that sense, you’ve kind of got to figure out what’s going to work for you and vibe for you for the long haul. The things that may be mild annoyances to a traveler can quickly become larger rants to an expat, who has to deal with it every day.
Wrapping it all up…
Living abroad is going to be fun, but it’s also going to be challenging. This is a give and take (marriage relationship). You will hit hard times. You will have great times.
What I personally strive to is to always feel my gut (and ask)~ What is the one thing I want to do the most!
When you choose from your passion, that’s probably going to pull you through the thick and thin. If you choose from your brain or your logic, then that might quickly wear out when the rough times come.
Thank you Caprice, for asking this important question and I hope this helps! =)
Everyone has different experiences and individual preferences. While I can’t tell you what language will be best for you or what country will suit you best, just as I can’t tell you what type of guys to like, the exciting part about travel is trusting your gut, following your own curiosity and discovering who you are through what you’re attracted to.
Any tips you’d like to add about exchange programs and how to decide where to live ? Have a question for me, feel free to drop it in the comments below .
Ask the GRRRL
Do I have to learn the language if I live in the country?