Why Are You Abroad Anyways?

Dear Jake,

Why did you decide (or are deciding) to go abroad anyways? Now, before you get defensive on me, I would like to clarify—how do you define your why for studying or working or just living abroad? This question will probably hit home in a lot of different ways, firstly, because it is something people ask you when you choose to live abroad and, secondly, because it might be something you are questioning yourself.

Here at Sincerely, Spain we believe in the abroad experience (you can read here about why we think you should go abroad and here to see our perspective on why studying abroad is so beneficial). However, we understand that internal and external questioning can make it really hard for you—both to enjoy your time abroad and get the most out of the trip for you. That is why this week we are focusing on the ‘why’ of going abroad and how you can use it to make the most out of your journey, whatever it may be at this time.

 
Image from a plane from Barcelona to Milan.
 

What is your why?

From our perspective, your why can be absolutely anything you want it to be—whether you want to study abroad or to go abroad to be with your partner, to learn a language or you just want to escape. When you are developing your why, consider what pushes you to leave your comfort zone and move abroad. While you are deciding your reasoning, take into consideration the nuances that help you decide if you want to be traveling every weekend or if you want to spend more time at your new home away from home. Don’t be harsh with yourself, but try to understand your motivations to make choices that better fit your expectations.

And remember, at the end of the day, we all have our own reasons for doing things and (we believe at least) that you should own that. No one else has lived through what you have lived through and no one else is trying to be the person you want to be. So, don’t expect them to be able to tell you how to live your choices. However, it is not always easy because you will probably find yourself fielding questions from people (sometimes some of the most important people) around you.

Big Ben and double-decker bus in London.

How other people might be questioning your why

Or maybe the better question is why do people question your why. Either way, if you are going abroad, you are likely to face questions from people around you about why you are going, why you are going where you are going, and why you are staying for such a long (or short) of time. Even people who love and care about you might ask you things that—to you—feel pretty insensitive.

Most of the time, when people ask you these kinds of questions, they are just trying to understand your motivations. Many times, especially if it is someone who cares about you, they are asking to show support and interest in what you are doing. However, it is really easy to ask things that have you questioning your own motivations and reasons for being abroad, and when you not sure about the answer, the questions can easily push your buttons the wrong way.

In fact, this sense of ‘unsureness’ has been a big motivator for us trying to figure out what we are doing abroad and why we continue to live like we do. It doesn’t mean that we are always defensive (trust us, even if it seems like it, not many people are actually trying to hurt you); it doesn’t even mean that you have to care about what they are thinking. But, when these questions get to you and you start questioning your own reasons for being abroad, then you should consider how you can make your why stronger to you.

How you might be questioning your why

Questioning why you are abroad and what you want to get out of the experience is a really normal sensation and something that we actually recommend doing. However, we also understand that it can be a difficult line of self-questioning, especially if you are not sure if you are doing it for the ‘right’ reasons. At the same time, even if something like “taking the opportunity to go to Europe and party” might not feel like strong reasoning to other people, if it is right for you, value it!

And, even if you do find yourself in a situation where you are comfortable for your reasons being abroad, you still might find yourself questioning things about your experience. Some questions you might have for yourself include:

  • What am I really doing here?

  • Why is my experience not like_____ ?

  • Why am I not ______ ?

We could spend days telling you that your experience is unique and that it will never match anyone else’s (no matter what you are expecting or hoping for). And this is true—every person we have met and talked to has a totally different abroad experience, even when some or most elements are the same. This means you get the opportunity to live your own adventure, even if it doesn’t always seem easy to do. It also means that when you choose what you want out of the experience and allow yourself to follow what you really want, you are giving yourself the opportunity of a lifetime.

Therefore, we believe that you should question your reasoning for being abroad and, if you want, adjust it accordingly. However, these adjustments should not be made based on what other people expect from you or tell you that an abroad experience is. Instead focus on what you want and how you feel about your journey. When you find peace with your own answer for why you are studying abroad anyways, other people’s questioning becomes less important and intrusive.

Let us know how you define your why and what you do to stay true to it—we will do our best to support you too!

Sincerely,
Spain