The Things I Learned About Myself While Working Abroad

For the past 6 months I have been living and working in Thailand. Upon graduating from college in Philadelphia, PA I decided to leave everything behind and embark on a new adventure. Since then, I can confidently say that I have changed for the better. I’ve learned so much about the world and, more importantly, about myself. Here are the 3 most important things I’ve learned about myself.

I have learned to enjoy my own company. Moving to a new city alone was a bit intimidating. I’ve done it a few times before, but the environment was always structured, as it was for school. Fortunately, I quickly made friends and settled into my new life here, but I also had a lot of time to myself. I was placed at a school with two other trainees but lived in a town alone. Although it was lonely at times I think it did me a lot of good. I got comfortable with being on my own and learned a lot about myself. I no longer feel anxious when eating a meal alone or lonely when walking to the bus stop. I am more aware of my surroundings and really take in the moments.

I have learned how to be quick on my feet. Living in Thailand teaches you to go with the flow. You never really have any idea what is going on. Its exhilarating to give into that feeling of confusion and excitement. This part of Thai culture is even more intense when working in Thailand. I would find out two minutes before assembly that I had to present an English lesson that morning or I would be told that classes are cancelled and I need to present a science experiment to the students in twenty minutes or I would be told that I need to create an exam and test all of my students that very day. Thailand loves throwing curve balls and eventually I got really good at swinging back.

I have learned that I enjoy a more laid back lifestyle. Coming from a loud and intense Italian family I have always been in energetic environments. Most of my life, I have been exposed to pressure, whether that be in athletics, academics, or work. I lived in a lively city that was very much ‘hustle and bustle’. American culture is ‘go, go, go’ and it's exhausting. Adjusting to the ‘mai bpen rai’ (translating roughly to “no worries”) lifestyle of Thailand was much easier to adjust to than I anticipated. When I get the wrong food at a restaurant I don’t feel the need to send it back, rather I welcome the surprise. When I am told to wait for the next van, I have TV shows pre downloaded to my phone because I know that the van could come in 20 minutes or 3 hours (but they’ll always tell me ‘maybe’ 20 minutes). When my plans go awry, I know to take a breath and go to plan B because the only response I will get to any sort of confrontation is: “it’s okay, maybe you [insert something other than what I am trying to do here]”. All of this may seem exhausting and frustrating, and sometimes it is, but it's also so refreshing to shake things off instead of asking for a manager. And I honestly do not know how I will ever adjust back to the American alternative.

All in all Thailand has made me a better version of myself. Everything I've learned will not only make me a more confident traveller but a more confident person in general. I know that being comfortable on my own, being able to go with whatever is happening, and being able to relax in a world that constantly barks at you to hurry up will improve my outlook on life, my work ethic, and my appreciation for the world.

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