4 life lessons best learned from living abroad

Waves

By Pöllö at creativecommons.org / Wikimedia Commons

Based on remarks to wonderful staff members, volunteers and friends of AFS Costa Rica in San José on Sept. 29.

I’ve spent a number of years and many thousands of words pondering the lessons Costa Rica has taught me. Some of them are specific to the delightfully unique attitudes, wordplay, foibles and flaws of this particular country. Others, however, are life lessons that I think are familiar to anyone who has lived or studied abroad.

We carry them with us, whether we “forget to come home” – as my father, who turned 80 last week, likes to say of me – or whether we head back to our native lands, forever changed.

Here are four of the lessons that have been most important for me. What about you?

  1. Progress isn’t always linear.

This is, perhaps, a lesson learned simply by getting a little older – but experiencing the intricacies of culture shock over a period of years definitely helped me figure this one out. The thing is: it’s not really one shock. And it’s definitely not a series of steps to check off.

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