expat

13 Things I Learned Living Abroad

 

1.  You will take more risks in life

Living in a foreign country can be challenging and things you might have avoided in the past because you were afraid of them don’t bother you much anymore. You start to realise that a lot of fear is actually unjustified. Your new mantra is FEAR -  Face Everything And Rise

 

2.  You will appreciate things from your homeland you never paid attention to

How I miss my typical german whole wheat bread! And my potato sauce which I can’t get a handoff outside of Germany. Well, I don’t bother to get it, because I know somehow amazon.comwould make it possible but I prefer getting excited when I travel home and I know I can fill my shopping bag with those goods.

But it is not only about food, you will miss certain customs, cultural traditions and people. 

 

3.  You attract what you send

Every place on earth has the potential to help you to grow. Have great experiences and value your stay there. At the same time, you can experience negative things anywhere. It depends on what you are focussing on. Having a bad day in a foreign country can be either more dramatic for you, or you can refocus on the positive things you experienced and gain something from the challenge. 

 

4. You can find friends everywhere

True friends will always be there, no matter the distance. But let’s be honest, you also need a support network in your place. It never took me a lot of time to meet new interesting people. I found good friends in class, at work, on a bus, on my way to the supermarket, online, through my flatmates or out clubbing. It doesn’t really matter where you are as long as you keep your eyes and ears open and connect with people. 

 

5. Covered health insurance by your state is a privilege

I never really thought about that as a privilege as I grew up with this, but when I had to pay hundreds of dollars for a doctors visit I had this nostalgic feeling for my social health system from my home country. 

 

6. Your worldview will broaden and you will overthink old belief systems

Maybe you came to a country with a very specific image in your head. And you were disappointed that this image was nowhere to be found except in corny touristy shops in your hotel.  

We get bombarded with images about other countries on our TV screen and we grow up with a certain world view. When I was young, I actually really believed that South America was just a big jungle with piranhas and that all people in Scandinavian countries are walking around like Vikings. Though these beliefs sound silly to most of us today, we still maintain certain beliefs about regions in the world that we never challenged until we booked a ticket to this country.  A lot of that also has to do with a Eurocentric worldview that is imposed on all of us from early childhood (even when you are growing up outside of Europe, you will get the impression, through TV and Media, that life in Europe/ North America, is the ultimate goal).

 

7. The grass is not always greener on the other side

What is your motivation to live abroad? If you think that everything will be easier, brighter and more fun when living outside of your usual environment than you will be disappointed. 

You will be confronted with the same, when not even with more challenges. That’s adult life. 

 

8.  You depend on social communication technologies

I remember the first time when I went abroad to Cape Town, there was no whats app and no Wifi in every corner. Skype just came out and was the only real communication device I had. And when I was in Cuba in 2012 and 2014, there was no private Internet at all for me. So whenever I felt like calling home, I either had to line up for a public computer, check at my University and wait for the extremely slowly Wifi to connect... or I had to make an expensive call from my landline phone. Due to this experiences, I appreciate modern communication technology even more. 

 

9. You will get incredible homesick in the worst moments

When you are sick. When you try to explain yourself but nobody really understands you because you cannot talk in your mother langue. When your car breaks down. When you are lost. When somebody steals your money and cards. When you have a fight. And you think… Why am I even doing this to myself? And you get incredibly homesick. And then you think again. Why am I doing this to myself?  And then you remember and smile.

 

10. You will get addicted exploring the world and already plan the next trip

After living abroad and coming home you realise that the world is a book with many pages. You want to read them all. You want to hike through the jungle and explore the busiest cities in the world. You actually want more than just a one week vacation in that place. You start researching opportunities to work there. Find an accommodation and make connections. You know how to live out of the suitcase. 

 

11. You will become a minimalist by default

Moving around and travelling with a lot of stuff is just shit.  You look at these easy, almost floating people with only one small backpack and you befriend the idea of owning less stuff. You start to declutter and sell and give away things. And it actually is a pretty good feeling when you don’t have to carry so much stuff with you. 

 

12. You will question culture and social standards

You can find yourself in different social and cultural environments and you are a genius in adapting to theses. At the same time, you are realising that cultural norms are also just a giant construct which should nobody hinder anybody from living their life to their fullest potential, no matter how that might look. 

 

13.  You will become this abroad friend to your friends and family at home

That is probably one of the more negative sides of living abroad. You will receive invitations to social events which you can’t attend. And you will learn that some friendships are stronger than others because not all of them survive the distance. But this also has a good side, as quality in friendship is definitely more important than quantity. Living abroad is an experience that adds benefits to your live, give it a try :) What do you think about this? Are you an expat your self? What is your story and what are your experiences? 

Me in Central London

 

 

Why you should travel to Cuba now. Updated 2018

Everybody is talking about Cuba right now. This season more and more people are going to visit Cuba. The Cuba so many people love might be changing drastically in the next years. And probably the main reason why everybody is going now!

Nature in Central Cuba

Nature in Central Cuba

Cuba is changing now more than ever. My love for this special island in the Caribbean doesn’t come from anywhere. I have always been dreaming about going to Cuba and to see what is behind the romanticised socialist dream. Between then and my final decision to study at the University of Havana for almost a year I had to get over quite a few obstacles but it was definitely worth it.

How did I get there?

Studying in Cuba wasn’t that easy as I expected. I remember that the attempts of making contact with my University were quite bumpy. Emails which never got a reply, expensive phone calls to dead ends and the language barrier made it difficult to get the essential information to make my decision. I know these circumstances have improved over the past few years and thanks to a broader internet connection on the island, it is easier to stay connected and find resources online.

 

When going for a vacation the restrictions and barriers are almost not there. Just book a flight and having a valid passport might be enough. You should also consider booking a place for the first few nights to stay. Good and affordable accommodations can be found on Airbnb.

 

How to get to Cuba

Best connections are offered to the capital Havana, sometimes cheaper options are displayed to Varadero or Holguin, if you can save more than 100$ on the plane ticket book the ticket to the smaller city, a bus trip to the capital is never more than 50$ and gives you the opportunity to see some other areas of the country right from the start.


 

What did I expect?

I didn’t expect the Cuban social revolution cliché with Rum, Salsa and Tobacco. But to my surprise, that is a lot of what I saw, mainly in tourist areas.

In my imagination, I was thinking it might be similar to Mexico or the Dominican Republic as I have visited those countries before and my perception of Latin and Caribbean countries was shaped by that experiences. But Cuba was a whole new experience. If you plan to leave your resort and get out there you can discover a completely different environment. Check out my previous blog post on how to discover Cuba!

 

What did I actually experience?

Experience is always subjective and therefore I can only talk for myself. Being an international student in Cuba is a unique experience with many ups and downs. There was always this fine line between me having the time of my life and getting frustrated over the daily struggles of bureaucracy. Cuba is the land of hospitality. People are always friendly, trying to help you, guide you and teach you. Protective and jovial, outgoing and full of creativity… that is how I would describe Cuba in on long sentence. See more about my experience being an international student in Cuba here.

 

Why is now the time to go to Cuba?

Every travel guide points Cuba out as the new „go-to" destination.  Cuba is very safe, especially for female traveller, still quite inexpensive and has good weather for the whole year. And as there are a lot of positive sides to this newly advanced tourism, it will change the landscape of this island immensely.  The new Cuba will be vibrant, colourful, amazing and unique, exactly as the old one but just a little bit different.


Update from 2018: Cubas tourism is more saturated and prices tend to rise. If possible avoid extreme touristy areas and visit smaller cities that like Holguin, Santa Clara, Guantanamo and Cienfuegos.