Exchange View: Navigating New Horizons? How to Stay True to Your Identity Abroad

Exchange view, Features, Self-help

Vol 26, Issue 23, 12 April

Leaping into a semester abroad is an exciting and transformative opportunity for being exposed to diverse cultures, new experiences, and languages. Life-changing and growth-inducing, a semester abroad offers not only academic enrichment but is also a journey of self-discovery. In the middle of all the exhilaration, you might find yourself facing a beneath-the-surface challenge of maintaining your sense of self. Staying true to yourself, your identity, and your beliefs amidst this unique environment whilst embracing the inevitable changes is particularly important. As a student abroad, you will get thrust into situations that will push you out of your comfort zone and have your identity challenged but also strengthened making it easy to lose yourself. This article will share a few ways and strategies you can use to stay true to yourself whilst embracing the full exchange experience.

Firstly, it is important to remember and respect where you come from, even though you want to explore and adapt to new customs, never forget your roots. A wonderful way to do this is to bring a tangible memento with you from home, be it a flag, postcard, favorite book, or photo of your home country. Small tokens can keep you grounded and remind you of your values in an unfamiliar environment.

Another key step is to set personal goals for yourself. Having clear goals that align with your values and what you wish to achieve during your semester before departure can be a tremendous help. Not only will you have a little personal instruction manual but also a reference when you feel like you are veering off course.

One piece of advice that might be overlooked and underrated is journaling. Having journaling or reflection sessions regularly can be great for maintaining your self-identity and being true to yourself. Combine this with writing updates on your goals and you can navigate your thoughts and feelings easier. This will allow you to view how the experiences you go through are shaping you without losing sight of who you are.

Last but certainly not least is keeping an open and regular communication with family and friends back home if possible. Allowing yourself to share your experiences as well as challenges with them keeps you tethered to your identity. It helps you process the events and safeguard your sense of self in the middle of the transformative experience.

Keeping your true identity lies in balancing authenticity with adaptation. With that being said, do not be afraid to be your authentic self since your unique self is a gift to anyone you meet. Be open to new perspectives and experiences without losing sight of who you are. Even though balancing between the two might be challenging, it is a crucial part of the journey to becoming self-aware. By embracing new cultures and traditions with an open mind whilst staying grounded in your individuality, you pave your way to not only discovering the world but discovering yourself. Your identity is your compass, try not to lose it amid all the excitement that comes with this new experience.

Be Your Authentic Self