I’m Ashley, a 23 year-old Canadian woman. This month, I came to a milestone: I’ve been living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for exactly one year now (and counting). It’s been incredible, challenging, and everything in between. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely changed as a person, but I do think I’m a better person now. Living abroad has opened my mind to so much; here are three ways I’ve grown this year.
I’ve improved my social skills → I started from scratch socially when I moved to Vietnam. I had no one here. Putting myself in that situation really forced me to get out of my comfort zone. I began going to events alone, reaching out to online groups, and speaking to as many people as possible. I learned how to start up a conversation with strangers in a way that I had never done before. Living abroad with no social circle really forced me to release typical inhibitions, and I think overcoming feelings of self consciousness and having an open mind are skills I’ll carry with me into the future. It’s also something I still have to remind myself to consistently work on, because the nature of living abroad means many friends I’ve made have now come and gone. Due to this, it’s virtually impossible to get completely comfortable in a social circle. But I think, in the long run, that’s a good thing for my personal development because it means I am constantly going to social events and making new friends, even after living in Ho Chi Minh City for a year.
I’ve become a much more relaxed person → Impatience is something I’ve struggled with for big portion of my life. I’ve never understood how many of my friends didn’t experience daily fits of frustration the way that I always did. But since living in Vietnam, I’ve had to work on my patience levels a lot. Everything is just so different here in comparison to home that I’ve learned to approach frustration with a laugh instead of fury. Sometimes I’m riding my motorbike home after a long day of teaching and it starts pouring rain, forcing me to pull over to wait for it to stop. Other times I have to go to 4 different pharmacies before I find the medication I need. Every time I fly with Vietnam’s cheap airlines, the flight is delayed. I have been scared by cockroaches in my room on several accounts. These are all annoying things that normally would rile me up to a boiling anger. But somehow, they’ve just become more hilarious than anything else. I’ve come to view them as part of the experience, and I’m immensely proud that I’ve gotten to that point.
My sense of adventure has been heightened → I came to Vietnam to escape the mundane. I craved a challenge, a completely new setting, and most of all I wanted to do something exciting. My experience teaching abroad has definitely granted me all of these things and more. My absolute favorite part of living here is the opportunity to travel. I’m paid well, living costs are low, and luckily my work is quite accommodating with the amount of time off I take. I’ve taken advantage of my situation and have travelled almost every month this year, to destinations like Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and around Vietnam itself. It’s been incredible! But beyond this, I think going into the experience of living abroad with expectations of escaping the mundane has turned me into a “yes person”. I constantly remind myself to make the most of my experience, which is an approach that’s more difficult to have at home. It’s difficult to stay at home and chill out when opportunities are constantly knocking, whether they be social, creative or cultural. I don’t let myself get bored; that’s not what I came here for!
Of course, these aren’t the only ways I’ve changed throughout my time living abroad. My interests have widened, my taste buds are more adventurous, and my independence has solidified. This entire experience has been about personal growth, and I think I will take the things I’ve learned here with me into the future. I’m proud of the ways I’ve changed! Living abroad has also opened my perspective to what life can be like if you choose to make it so: amazing, wild, rewarding and beautiful.
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