Not so many Africans have a chance of living away from home but those who do gain immensely from the experience. For many that have actually never taken a flight or travelled further than the village, it’s actually easier to accomplish than we think.
At the height of my teaching career, a couple of life-changing incidents took place that made me realise it was time for me to tackle the next phase of my life. Before embarking on the new part of my journey, I figured that falling back into school away from home would give me the much needed closure on that phase. For all the cultural shocks and the major life adjustments, living away from your homeland does have its perks.
So here are the ten things that have changed my life forever. I’m sure anyone from any part of the world would probably get the same benefits.
- Appreciation of different cultures
For starters, I know that my homeland, Uganda (according to Harvard University Academics), was named as the most ethnically diverse nation in the world, but never have I lived in a place as diverse as California with little communities of people from all over the world. You learn to appreciate that others are just as unique as you are… in fact you quickly adapt to the fact that everything you say has to be politically correct.
- The patriotic spirit blossoms
Being around everyone who’s like you sometimes over-shadows the uniqueness of your culture and ethnicity. Once you cross the borders, you are suddenly either very ‘african’ or in my case, ‘ugandan.’ Your accent becomes a distinguishing factor. When living in Orange county, I found it funny that the members of my bible study group always wanted me to read aloud just so they could listen to my accent. You also quickly want to identify with anything from your homeland and you also get a kick out of texting or speaking in your mother tongue. In a nutshell, you appreciate homeland like never before.
- You discover yourself
When you live away from your homeland, away from all you know and all you are used to, you are thrust into a position where you have to build relationships and networks from scratch. This gives you a chance to look inward, in fact many a time, this experience helps one discover their life purpose. In some instances, you are forced to develop skills you didn’t know you had like learning new language in order to communicate. I probably would never have blogged if I hadn’t left Uganda.
- Gives you exposure
Being exposed to a variety of lifestyles and opinions could easily be the best education because it enlightens your mind. Until you live elsewhere and are able to form your own opinions, your understanding comes from what you are told and from the news, which at times may not be true. You learn to appreciate that others have a different way of doing things or relating with each other.
- Confidence boost
Living away from home boots you out of the comfort zone and forces you to experience new things or to adapt to major changes.The more you are able to navigate through the different experiences in the new environment, the richer your character becomes. This is instrumental in helping one become a well rounded individual which in turn boosts your confidence.
- Facing fear
The fact that you are able to relocate, leaving all your friends and family back home, is sure to build the muscle of braveness in you. Many that are able to go through this experience generally become better risk takers, which creates deep innate satisfaction and will spill over into many other areas of your life.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to be mature is to have or show mental and emotional qualities of an adult. Living in another place increases our knowledge and widens our perspective on life and these are qualities that many effective members of society display. In my experience, being compassionate and empathetic have been the greatest additions to my personality.
- Enhanced Creativity
Novel experiences, which are mostly difficult because of the emotional adjustments, increase our creativity through the living circumstances that you would never have otherwise encountered at home. This is beneficial especially in a world that is getting more global by the day. People that have lived in places other than homeland are more flexible thus the natural ability to overcome hardships that others would probably try to avoid.
- Understanding the power of media
You realize that people know nothing about Africa, not because they are ‘dumb’, but because media has marketed a certain image of the beloved motherland. And in turn, you also learn that some countries are pretty good with marketing their image through the media and show you only the ‘juicy’ parts that are totally different from what happens on ground. These myths are quickly and completely destroyed. The lesson here is Africa needs to learn to harness the power of media in order to tell her own story. No one tells a story better than the owner of the story.
- Real racism exists
First of all, you learn that ‘those uncomfortable feelings’ that you have had ever since you started working in a multicultural society, actually do have a name. The new lingua involves the likes of white supremacy, white privilege and racial profiling. Secondly, you realize that people actually place a value on you based on your skin colour. This is subtle but real! The joy in this lesson is to understand that your value comes from the inside and not on the value that others place on you.
These ten things, I believe, have left me a more rounded fellow who does not shy away from questioning the norm. This is a great experience for anyone that has always wanted to experience life elsewhere but has never mustered the guts to do so. I have done it and so can you!