After 5 jobs, an internship and a couple temporary positions, there are a lot of things I’ve learned at work that I’m excited to take with me when I go on exchange to Paris in September! So without further ado, I present to you…
5 lessons to take with you when you travel abroad!
1. Do things that scare you
As a pretty risk averse person, the only way to get me to do something I really don’t want to is to pay me. In all the jobs I’ve ever held there have been oh, 100+ tasks I don’t been comfortable doing but have to anyway, like drive a fully loaded golf cart down a steep, bumpy hill (and I can’t even drive a car) for example. And after doing the scary things a couple times, it’s not that scary and actually kind of fun. The big lesson from this is to GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE because when you’re abroad, you’ll have to do this on a daily basis to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities.
2. Get used to approaching strangers
One of the jobs I had this summer was being paid to ask low income people to fill in a survey for a research study at UBC. So basically, hours and hours of approaching people and asking them to do me a favour. And you know what? People can be really nice, and I ended up having some great chats with people I would normally never talk to. It’s difficult to take people’s rejection after you approach them, but it’s so rewarding when you meet such cool people and especially useful if you’re travelling alone. I’m very happy that I’m not afraid to approach strangers anymore, because when you travel you will be relying on the kindness of strangers to get you by when things don’t go as planned (which will, by the way, be more often than not). And in general, people are good and you shouldn’t let suspicion stop you from giving them a chance.
TANGENT: Businesses like Couchsurfing (http://www.couchsurfing.org/) and Tripping (tripping.com) base their entire businesses on this, and look how successful they are! I’m looking forward to using them when I’m travelling too.
3. Fill up your schedule as much as possible
Studying abroad means juggling studying, travelling, and having a blast with your new friends, so get used to being 100% busy all the time before you study abroad so you know how to balance it all! My 3 current jobs and an internship have taught me this much. And on that note…
4. Be self disciplined
There are going to be some things you won’t want to do but have to anyway when you go abroad. If you’re going on exchange like me, then it will mean actually cracking open a textbook once in a while and studying. Or abstaining on buying the kitschy tourist shirts. Or ordering a second dessert. Once I set the goal to earn as much money as possible, I said goodbye to my social life for the summer and gave my entire availability to my jobs. I only ever see my friends before and/or after I work, and it sucks because there are so many cool events happening in Vancouver during the summer. But c’est la vie! I live my hermit life, work as much as possible and can travel that much more comfortably later.
5. Make lots of mistakes, but take them in stride
I don’t mean ‘make lots of mistakes and don’t apologize’ like so many tourists do just because they’re in a foreign country, but take them lightly and learn how to do it properly for next time. This has been especially hard for me since I’m so used to getting the hang of things so quickly, but let me tell you – learning how to waitress has been a very painful process. But making mistakes is bound to happen when you’re in a new environment, be it a new job or a new country and the best thing you can do is learn quickly and don’t get too discouraged.
I can’t guarantee that these lessons will make sure your time abroad is awesome, but I’m pretty sure it will be 😀
BY THE WAY — ONLY 15 DAYS UNTIL DEPARTURE!