Find Your Why for Being Abroad

Dear Sam,

On Tuesday we talked about your ‘why’ for being abroad and questions you might face (either from yourself or those people around you). Today we want to focus on helping you see your ‘why’ and following the path that you decide is best for you—something that is not necessarily easy but that will make your experience more valuable to you!

Note: Every person has a different ‘why.’ You should work on understanding your own reasoning before adopting someone else’s! But this isn’t always easy. The following 5 questions should help you define your ‘why.’

Are you looking to learn something? See something? Escape from something? Is it wanderlust or something else that pushes you abroad?

Are you looking to learn something? See something? Escape from something? Is it wanderlust or something else that pushes you abroad?

1. Why did you leave where you were living?

This question might seem strange (or bizarrely obvious) but whether you are going abroad for study abroad, to have a new life experience, or to escape something that happened back home, this will impact how you see your time living away from the place called home. At the same time, you should recognize that it is easy to get caught up in the idea that ‘everyone should have an international experience’ and just go with the flow when you are offered something instead of truly thinking about it.

However, being aware of the reasons behind your decision and taking active steps towards what you want will help you better understand you why. Here it is also important to recognize when external people (i.e. anyone who is not you) have greatly influenced your decision. That is not to say that it is a bad thing that your parents are pushing you for a second language or you want to have a great study abroad experience like your best friend but that acknowledging these influences will probably help you come to peace with your ‘why.’

Pro-tip: Be aware of the reasons that pushed you to step outside your comfort zone and decide to go abroad to help you be at peace with these thoughts.

On a trip to Brazil, the destination itself held the magic for the journey.

On a trip to Brazil, the destination itself held the magic for the journey.

2. Why did you choose your destination?

Obviously here at Sincerely, Spain we have chosen Spain as our place to go (and live abroad). But this hasn’t been the only place we have lived. Between the two of us (not together), we have also lived in Brazil and Costa Rica in the Americas, and Portugal and Finland in Europe. At the end of the day, the choices we make to stay somewhere—or to leave—mean something about what we are looking for and where we expect to find it.

For example, did you choose to go abroad to one place where you wanted to learn the language and understand the culture? Or are you traveling around, staying a shorter time in each city/country you visit so that you can have a broader experience? Neither of these scenarios necessarily represents a ‘better’ time abroad, but they do represent two very distinct journeys. By understanding why you chose your destination, you will be adding to your ‘why’ of being abroad.

Pro-tip: Analyze why and how you chose your destination(s) to get a better idea of what you are looking for with your experience abroad.

Windy streets with a view of the Alhambra. Granada, Spain

3. What are you hoping to get out of the experience?

Your general expectations for your time abroad might seem like an obvious question, but the answer might not be as straightforward as you expect. Oftentimes people who go abroad to Europe expect to see ‘Europe,’ which can mean anything from the capital cities around the continent to spending time traveling around and getting to know people from a bunch of different countries.

It is so easy to decide what our abroad experience means when we use a checklist (either of places you have been and things you see or experiences you have had). However, life itself cannot be reduced down to a checklist and, therefore, you will probably find that your expectations go beyond what you tell your friends and family back home. Whether it be that you want to visit certain cities, want to become fluent in the language, or date someone from that culture try to figure out what your are hoping to get out of your experience abroad.

Pro-tip: Let your expectations flow with your experience—we often find ourselves imagining our own journey based on other people but let yourself have something unique based on what you live.

What do you absolute want to do and see?

What do you absolute want to do and see?

4. What are your must dos?

Very much related to the last point, figure out what your must dos or must sees are while you are abroad. For some people, the journey will never end, for others, you will only have one or a couple of opportunities to experience what you are living now. Like Dani about in her “about me” page here, you never know if you will go back home or if you will get bit by the travel bug and start to create a home away from home.

Therefore, try to figure out what is the most important for you to see and do during your time abroad. Try to be reasonable in terms of time and money, but also be true to yourself. If going to a certain city or landmark is important, make sure that you budget (in the sense of time, money, and energy) for it. If you want to make sure you learn the language or make one local friend, invest in making that part of your reality.

Pro-tip: Understandings your must dos will help you decide where you want to spend your time, money, and energy.

Windmills in the Alpujarra. Granada, Andalusia, Spain

5. What are you worried about?

Finally, try to understand what are the things that worry you about your journey or the things that will limit you. This can be anything from having too much work/schoolwork to get done to travel or not enough money to make your dreams a reality. You might be afraid of traveling alone and, therefore, need to find a travel buddy before you are willing to book trips. Or maybe you are not worried about anything at this point but other people in your life are whispering in your ear things that make you think twice about the adventures you are planning.

While we don’t recommend focusing on your fears, understanding your worries can help you better plan for your abroad experience. Once you have a good grasp about what bothers you, you can share it with others and find the support you need to make your time abroad as magical as you hoped it would be.

Pro-tip: Don’t keep your worries to yourself—sometimes we all need to ask for help!

And there you have it, five questions to ask yourself to help you define your own ‘why’ for being abroad anyways. Once you have sat down and thought it out, other people’s questioning will probably seem trivial—you will understand what you are looking for! Let us know what you love about being abroad in the comments down below.

Sincerely,
Spain

P.S. Once you have decided your ‘why,’ don’t be afraid to change it! Life moves on and you will too if you want where you going to match up with your actual journey.