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florence view woman italyHave you studied or volunteered abroad, or worked as an expat in a foreign country? In this week’s Friday Free-for-All, we want to hear about your experiences of living in a country outside your own. Your story could be used in a future IndependentTraveler.com article!

We’re looking for answers to the following questions:

1. Where did you live, and for how long?

2. How did you do it? (Examples: study abroad program, teaching English as a second language, Peace Corps, etc.)

3. What’s one piece of advice you’d give another traveler who wants to live in that country?

Leave your answers in the comments below by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, February 4, 2013. We’ll choose one commenter at random to win an IndependentTraveler.com travel mug. Be sure to include a valid e-mail address so we can notify you in case you win!

Living Abroad: 4 Ways to Make It Happen

— written by Sarah Schlichter

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9 Responses to “Ever Lived Abroad? Tell Us About It!”

  1. Christine says:

    I lived in Budapest, Hungary for 8 yrs. I was a missionary working at a christian school there as their librarian. One piece of advice i would give someone moving to Hungary is learn basic hungarian before you go, the language is a tough one. Learn to say hello, goodbye and learn how to ask where something is especially the restroom..I found this one very important.

  2. Janine says:

    Twice.. Dublin for a year and Canada for almost 3 years. No matter where you choose, always make an effort to experience as much of the local culture, events, sports, traditions as you can. It will be an amazing experience if you open yourself up to meeting people and stepping out of your comfort zone.. After all you have already taken the first steps anyway.. Why not keep challenging yourself. You will come home changed, with new lifelong friends and a while new outlook on life (if you decide to come home)!

  3. Andres says:

    I lived in Costa Rica for 3 and a half years… It is an amazing country! It is great for eco-tourism, has beautiful beaches, etc…
    I was there working for a hotel company… a couple of tips would include, salary! Costa Rica is a especially expensive country to live in… restaurants, or food in general is quite expensive. Also try finding a group pf expats friends… the Costa Rican people are very friendly, but is extremely difficult to become part of a social group.
    Language wise, although spanish is very important you can get around speaking english…
    Don’t get frustrated if people invite you to go out and never show up… especially at the begining… that is the way “ticos” are…

  4. 1.I lived in Tema, Ghana, for two months, in Hillerod, Denmark, for two months, and, more recently – and what I’ll answer with for the other two questions – in Chennai, India, for six months. Heading back to Chennai in a few weeks for a few more months!

    2.I volunteered with a DC-based NGO, the Association for India’s Development, while I lived in Washington a few years ago. I kept up contacts there and, when I finished school early and decided to take more time before my Masters, it was suggested I help one of AID’s education-focused branches in India. Thus I found myself in Chennai, working with a non-profit that runs a few village schools and after-school programs in the state of Tamil Nadu. I did that for the first three months, then had enough time and local connections to start doing some freelance editing while traveling around a bit more of India and Nepal for my last three months.

    3.When it comes to traveling to India, people tend to either spend plenty of money to stay in beach resorts or they are there to really “experience” the country. Needless to say, it is overwhelming. My advice: don’t be afraid, and keep your eyes open. Anyone who wants to *live* in India will quickly learn that. The more you feel like an outsider, the more you look like one and are likely to be taken advantage of. Don’t allow anyone (eg. auto drivers!) to push you around, and don’t let yourself hold a few negative experiences against everyone else. I actually often end up avoiding other non-Indians there because they only ever wanted to complain. I worked, lived, and celebrated with only Indians, ate and dressed like a local, picked up as much of the language as I could (Hindi and Tamil, in my case), etc. India is hugely diverse within itself, so dropping yourself directly into the culture is the best – and only – way to even begin to fully appreciate it. Know that it isn’t easy – romanticizing beforehand will probably make you one of those complaining and horrified visitors – but it’s totally worth it.
    Be prepared to have your heart pulled in a thousand directions at once, because that’s what India does and how it operates on a daily basis. It’s terrifying and unbelievably fantastic all at the same time.

  5. Leslie says:

    Cairo, Egypt and Damascus, Syria for a year with the United Nations Peace Keepers. Advice? Boil your water or drink bottled in Egypt; the water is fine in Damascus, but some street vendors’ fare is questionable. As in any developing nation, use caution.

  6. As my husband is Finnish, we have a home outside of Helsinki. I’ve definitely been on a learning curve; the language is seriously difficult unless you’ve got the time to study. Even a trip to Prisma, one of Finland’s supermarket changes, can be a huge challenge. On one expedition, there were so many kinds of milk (and yogurt and other stuff that all looks like milk) that I came back with buttermilk. I’ve learned a couple of things. If you need help, you’re more likely to find that younger (under 50) Finns can speak some English. And 2? They’re incredibly kind, gentle and understanding to foreign visitors…

  7. Mónica says:

    Starting from my first experience:
    I have lived in Ireland. One month, twice in following years. I was there with a scholarship from my country (Spain) and I was hosted by an Irish family. I was 17 and 18 and my really first experience abroad “by myself”.
    After that I was 3 weeks in Toronto hosted by a Canadian family (The Philippines) with another scholarship to improve my English. It was really a challenge to cross the Pacific then, when people did not move that much (2007), at least in my country.
    However, my real adventure was in 2008 when I did my first internship abroad with IAESTE (international association to exchange internships for students). I went to Suttgart (Germany). I was living by myself totally and working in an university. I was surrounded by people from all around the world whom were there in the situation as me. Unluckily my English was not that good as now so I had a bad time with communication but my thirst of knowing about other nationalities led me to improve my English quite fast not being shy to talk and commit mistakes. I was there two amazing months and since then I am involved with foreigners everywhere I go (I became addicted to multicultural/international environments.
    In 2009 another internship with IAESTE brought me to Macedonia, mostly known as FYROM where for 7 weeks I was working in a local company and having parties almost everyday. I met such a wonderful local people, travelled around the tiny country and also around (Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Kosovo). I learnt there a lot for my personal growth like: people are the most important thing not material things. My room was not very confortable and either the features of my job/country and so on but, the experience and my time in general was incredibly good.
    2010 was the beginning of my time being a foreigner as I went to UK to improve my English working as au pair. I was in the outskirts of London for 2 months and then I moved into London for another 7. Living within 2 British families gave me the opportunity to know a lot about their society, culture and daily life. I had the chance to meet people who were living there from everywhere in the world as London is a great metropolis full of different people.
    2011 I started my international masters (Eramus masters) in which every semester we are in another country. I started in Germany (Cottbus) and it was so so difficult to take notes in English and study in another language. Time passed and I got used to it and I could enjoy more my time learning German and making new friends in another environment: as student abroad! I was there for almost 5 months. Then it was the time of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) for 5 months. Another way of teaching, new classmates from the same masters, others from there (UK university itself). Living in a house with 5 guys there from other continents it was a challenge! (They were from Ecuador, Senegal, The Philippines, India and Indonesia). I could learn a lot from other ways of live, living together and so on.
    Once I finished there I could manage to get my third IAESTE internship and I went to Ukraine for 2 months, but the East Ukraine, the most wild part let’s say. It was a real challenge and a proof of survival, mainly spiritually and as a human being. It was difficult to manage constrainst in time, places to go and people to understand us (me and the other traineers) in English language. It was the time to put in practice the cyrilic alphabeth I learnt in Macedonia and to learn a bit of Russian in order to communicate.
    Then, I returned to Cottbus for my third semester…
    Finally my 4th semeter was in Singapore! I had the chance to live in SE-Asia and work for an European company there while I was writing my master thesis. I could be aware by the very first hand how much diversity exists in this world. It was incredible and now I really can say I have friends everywhere in the world.
    Now, in Spain, I am waiting for my documents to start working in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) so I will have more stories to tell soon soon.

    As an advice… I only can suggest not to be shy because everyone have been “alone” at least once in live. It could be scary in the beginning but in the end you understand we are humans with common features not only physical ones… we can understand each other even without the language. And… do not be shy to ask for help to everyone you know that have been in that country, live there or a friend of a friend. If we help each other, world will be better.

  8. Roni Clark says:

    I lived in Nice (1 year) and Paris (2 years) in France and in Sevilla (2 months) and Barcelona (1 year) in Spain. I went to language school at EF in Nice, a nanny in Paris, worked as a bartender and taught English in Barcelona and went to a language school in Sevilla. 1 piece of advice? totally immerse yourself in the culture of the country you are living in. In order to do this you have to let go of the “We don’t do that at home” mentality and let yourself be open to the differences you will experience. That will mean you will be uncomfortable at times but unless you are forced to stretch your comfort zone you won’t learn anything.

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