This is a fairly new life development for me, but I would say that it is now fair to state that by most standards, I can consider myself a reasonable adult. Albeit in Asia, I have a real job. Teaching these hooligans full time is arguably indentured servitude in some respects, but that’s beside the point. I pay all my bills—shout out to the US government, you should be grateful I’m paying those darned student loans and not deferring them! I try to keep up with current events, even if my primary news portals are Twitter and Facebook (it’s 2014 give me a break). I make my bed every morning and brush my teeth at night and even eat my vegetables, however different the vegetables may be here. Lotus root? Hey hey lunch lady, you know I got seconds!
Barring the outliers, all of these tasks are extremely commonplace for the majority of people my age and are not really accomplishments at all. I’m fully aware. Don’t think you’re more special because you’ve been working slave labor hours since you emerged from the womb and paying for your entire life since you were in diapers. Poo on you, everyone does life at their own pace.
The real talk is that real ADULT life outside of your home country is tough. It kicks you in the ass nearly every day and while that may not be original (duh, being an adult is hard everywhere), the methods in which it hits you are as humiliating as they are hilarious. It is astonishing to me how blatant the differences are between studying and living abroad. Let’s just say one is invariably less glamorous than the other.
- MONEY: Reflecting back about money studying abroad now is both sobering and comical. I thought it was SO tough having to take out extra loans to study abroad and live off a fixed amount of money. Now looking back, all I did was ATM it up and worry about the Euro/USD exchange rate. Now that I’m actually paying back those loans that made the trip possible, I know that I will never ever regret that decision because even though I’m consigned to reliving memories and retelling travel stories like a broken record, it is enough to remind me that I am living my dream. I get to pay for the best decision of my life while still traveling and experiencing new and incredible things! Seoul kills me softly on the daily.
- LANGUAGE: Gone are the days when a comprehensive language lesson was conveniently built into your day for you. Now, not only do you have to seriously decide on diligence to learn language, bonus, language barrier becomes a much more serious part of your life when you are actually living abroad. Think banking, post office, grocery store, restaurant, pharmacy, and any other life situation where you have ever interacted with a customer service person and imagine 99% of that interaction as a non-verbal mime-a-thon. Hopefully, you’re laughing and hopefully you realize how necessary it is to make a real, however laborious, effort to learn the language!
- WORK: We thought it was SO hard rolling into class Monday morning (a loosely applied term), studying (again, up for interpretation), and writing final papers (these were actually legit: 10 pages written in Italian is no joke). We would be exhausted both emotionally and physically from a weekend of touring ____ # of museums in (insert historical city here) and thought we were just the savviest. I’m here to say, real life brings the real struggles. After a weekend of traveling through Japan and huffing it back to “teach” screaming Korean children for 8 hours, I can safely say that I’d take another 10 page assignment ANY DAY over the vicious wrath of a scorned Soo Kyung.
- TRAVEL TIME: Actually having breaks specifically for travel was the most underappreciated gift of life. What’s that? Monday to Friday called and they want you to sell them your SOUL. I may be living abroad, but I work that week out just like the rest of you rat- racing rats.
- IMMIGRATION/VISAS: Depending on your specific background, I would say there is little in life to adequately prepare you for the absolutely asinine humans you will be forced to deal with in the process of obtaining visas. This is, to me, the least glamorous aspect of travel by all measures. I could potentially be persuaded to word that less dramatically by revising to say that it makes my list of top 5 worst parts of traveling, but I reserve the right to think of the other four later.
The best part is, this list is neither comprehensive nor exclusive to life abroad. Real life adult struggles are ubiquitous. For whatever purpose, what I mean to say is that the same things that you may be dealing with in North America or wherever you are in the world, are present–even if they manifest differently– in my life, too. Being an adult is hard, but it definitely beats middle school!