6 Lessons I Learned While Living Abroad

Mehak Chadha | Member since 2016 

Mehak Chadha is an international business school student from the National University of Singapore. She is passionate about solving business problems and creating memorable consumer experiences. Her career goal is simple: to find the balance between data driven decisions and creative storytelling to have the greatest business impact.

Moving abroad can be the most terrifying yet exhilarating experience at the same time. I moved to Singapore almost two years ago in the summer of 2015 to pursue my MBA. While I was excited to be a student again in the magnificent city of Singapore, I was also sad about leaving behind my family and friends in India. Living in Singapore, and then moving to United States and recently to Germany has been the best adventure of my life. An adventure packed with ups and some downs that has taught me some valuable things about myself and the world around me. Here are 6 lessons I have learned while living abroad:

#1 Be Open Minded 

The first thing that hit me when I moved abroad was how different Singapore was from what I was used to while living in Mumbai. I left behind things that I was used to and those that comforted me to engage in brand new experiences: new food, new apartment, new people. In the beginning, it was overwhelming. I found myself missing home, feeling like an outsider in the city. Things became better when I found myself engaging in the new experiences around me with an open mind. I entered a new realm, I started discovering the city with a completely different mindset and soon developed a new founded love for Singapore. Being open minded has taught me that every person, every city and every country has something wonderful to share that can enhance my own life’s learning.

#2 Find Your Story

I had lived in Mumbai for 10 years before I moved abroad. While there were some unique things about me, I was also just like any other young girl in the city. I never felt the need to find my story as I always ‘fit in’ the crowd. Living in Singapore, Chicago and Munich, I have discovered what it feels like to be a foreigner living abroad. People are curious to know where you come from and what’s your story. These last few years have led to a greater degree of self-awareness where I have found my story that I share with the new people I meet around the world: who am I, what values are important to me and what are my ambitions. I believe this has helped people around me understand me better.

#3 Emphasize on the “People”

People around the world are more similar than we think. Sure, cultures and settings vary, but essentially we all want to love and be loved, follow our passions, and dream big. One of the biggest lessons I have learned abroad is to get to know people I meet on a deeper level, get to know their story, and build trusting relationships. These relationships can be essential to your personal success in living abroad.

#4 Ask for Help

I was used to living alone and knowing everything about the city I lived in. Then, I moved to a brand new city, where I had to unlearn everything I knew and learn everything all over again. It can be intimidating, but soon I learned that I had to ask for help. Do not hesitate to ask for help to strangers or people at your work or university. I was amazed by the general kindness of humanity; people would drop everything they were doing to help me in my moment of distress. It is not easy to ask for help, especially when it is something small.
However, learning this new life skill has helped me immensely in feeling at home in places abroad.

#5 Question the Status Quo

As a foreigner, you have the opportunity to see the world around you from a different perspective. At the workplace, your university or social circle, you can enhance the way things are done by questioning the status quo. Once you develop trusting relationships around you, don’t be afraid to raise your voice. People will appreciate your constructive feedback especially if it can enhance the way things are done.

#6 Celebrate Small Victories

Lastly, living abroad is a challenging journey. Learn to celebrate the small victories. You will not reach the level of comfort and ‘at home’ feeling overnight. I have learned to cherish the small joys in my day-to-day living from learning to speak a few sentences in German, to being able to navigate the public transport, to dealing with public authorities and finding a good Indian restaurant in my new neighborhood!
Living abroad has challenged me immensely and helped me grow into a better version of myself. I’ve learned new skills, built new relationships and opened my mind to new experiences. At the end of the day, all you need is your own head on your shoulders, a positive mindset and will to live in the moment.