Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
Me and Jasper have both recently celebrated our birthdays and we decided to do a small summary of what we have learnt so far. We have found that there is an enormous change from the way we were in our university years and now to being in our mid twenties so with that said, here are 25 things we’ve learnt so far, and as always, hope to continue learning.
There comes a day when you just can’t get blindly drunk anymore. And Hallelujah to that! There was a time (looking at you Erasmus!) when it seemed like the best thing on Earth and you swore to yourself, you would never stop : the shots, the parties, the dancing, the new drunken friends you made each night. Fast forward a few years, and you’re happy catching up in a beer garden with friends now and again but otherwise, it’s tea and quiz shows that are more your thing most evenings. Also, if you do go clubbing, you realise that everyone is 18 and unless they’re playing music you know (Britney, Shakira, etc), you don’t quite manage to fit in. Sidenote: hangovers really do get worse as you get older!
People grow apart. In fact, once the uni life is over, you will be able to count all your good friends on one hand. Maybe two if you’re Superman or from Made in Chelsea. Not only do some people not bother keeping in touch with you no matter how hard you try and you realise you have to let them go, but those who are in your life might not be exactly who you need. As you get more self aware in your early 20s, you feel much more confident about yourself and the people you surround yourself with. The pretence can now stop. Saying goodbye sometimes is necessary.
In terms of relationships you have now, you will learn that keeping them really does require effort. You’ve past the “me, me, me” stage long after Fresher’s year and you’re now at a place where you make time for those closest around you. If they’re not around physically, you schedule Skype dates and maybe have a beer or two. Your family and friends will remain the most important thing in your life, learning to cultivate these relationships is a must.
Fear less, do more. Although it seems we have a lot to be fearful about: finances, relationships, future, career, success, personal development – we are actually manifesting many of these fears ourselves in our head. Learn to let go a little, and accept that whatever happens, happens. Don’t hold yourself back, use this time wisely to explore new things and ideas.
It’s ok to feel sad and/or lonely. In fact, it is more than ok. Not being constantly distracted by friends, parties etc will give you the chance to be alone, and to learn more about yourself than you have done in a while. If we don’t explore what’s inside of us and get to know ourselves, it will be so much harder to work out all the other things, like your career path, your relationships, your personal wellbeing etc. Be alone and be sad. Be confused as well. It’s ok and it’s a very normal part of life for many twenty-somethings.
If you’re in a relationship and you are questioning whether you should be with this person or not, the answer is there. You shouldn’t.
Also, break-ups are hard. You create much deeper connections with people as you get older so it becomes even more difficult to let them fully go when you need to. It’s just an unfortunate part of life that we all have to go through, but it’s not impossible. Difficult yes, but only with time, will you learn to let go of the past.
You will stop spending money on frivolous things. Gadgets, clothes, makeup etc will become all but a distant memory. As most of us have student loans to pay off, we realise that money is actually a pretty serious thing. That overdraft you have? You will remember that it’s actually real money and one day, you will have to pay it back.
(It didn’t stop Jasper getting himself a projector though, so maybe some debts can be put off sometimes!)
When you are spending money however, you will also realise that money spent on experiences is never a waste. Travelling, seeing your friends and family, concerts – all these will make for some wonderful memories and experiences. When you want to buy something for 150 EUR for example, you realise that that could be the price of a plane ticket to see your friend and so it most likely won’t be worth it.
You won’t need as much comfort as you thought you did. Right now, you can sleep on stranger’s couches, fly in Ryanair and buy cheap food from the market. Your house decorations might include a few candles and a flag from your home country. We don’t need a life of luxury just yet so you will feel quite content with the small, yet meaningful things you do have. Also, if you are an expat, you probably moved over with a suitcase or two so you learn to rely on having a lot less yet making a lot more out of it.
You will learn how to stand up for yourself. This is a very difficult thing to do when you’re younger because you are still learning so it seems like everyone else around you know better. So if they put you down, you don’t question it too much. However, there comes a point when you realise you have your own values and sometimes, just sometimes, other people above you are not right.
You really do start to forget why you even liked clubbing in the first place. Sure it’s good to go from time to time but it’s also much nicer going to a pub with a few friends, enjoy a drink and actually be able to hear each other speak.
When it comes to your friends from home, you soon find they are split into two kinds of people – those who went to university, and those who didn’t. Whilst my uni friends and I are still trying to land that dream graduate job or internship or first apartment, our non-uni are either married, parents or both, and are well and truly settled down. I guess the non-uni bunch are living life 4 years ahead or something, and many of the uni lot will probably start to settle down in a few years too, so it’s good to enjoy the twenties before that time comes!
In fact, if you can, then try and live alone for at least a year. It will teach you so much about yourself than anything or anyone else ever can.
If you are thinking of making any changes in your life: career, further education then now is the time. It really gets so much harder the longer you wait. So, start planning now.
Working out and eating healthy actually becomes enjoyable now. Firstly, it puts you in control of something in your life and secondly, those endorphins everyone talks about actually really do exist. Although, what counts as working out will depend on your mood. Sometimes a 10 minute yoga stretching session can have you feeling like you’ve accomplished Mount Everest so it doesn’t have to be all extreme.
You begin to realise that flakiness is never a good virtue. And even though you may have got away with it rather unscathed before, now you realise that when you’ve said “yes”, it really means a “yes” to the other person. So, try your best to keep promises – the times you won’t show up will be remembered.
Try and put yourself into as many social situations as possible (even though you really may hate the thought of it). It’s something that will not only help with your confidence but also your communication skills and now is the time to brush up on both.
Don’t be scared to ask for help. Whether this is from friends, family or even professionals. It really isn’t an easy time for a lot of people and it will help you feel so much better when you can hear some good advice or tips for others and just de-stress yourself a bit.
Also, it may be a hard habit to keep but meditation really does work wonders. Just clearing out your head even for a few minutes a day can change your perspective and attitude on so many things and will make anything you have to go through a lot more bearable. If you (like us) skip a few weeks, then get back on it as soon as you remember!
Making friends gets a lot harder. Everyone keeps their close friendship circles from childhood and university so if you move abroad and you struggle to make close friendships – don’t despair. There will be some people out there who will be right on your wavelength and with a bit of time and effort, you can count on having a good friend. It requires a lot more effort than ever before but it can be done.
Get to know your neighbours! When you are stuck in bed with the flu, or you just need to borrow some extra chairs for a poker game, you can count on them in just a few minutes.
Don’t forget to say thank you. Not only to the people around you but also to the opportunities life brings you. Being grateful is one of the easiest ways to bring you up from a very down day. There may be a Lot of things that aren’t going right, and it’s easier to focus on the negative. However, give yourself a few minutes to remember all the positives and you’ll see, you’re actually pretty damn lucky with how your life is right now
Educate yourself or learn a new skill. Now that we’re out of school and uni, we should not stop learning. Yes, we may be learning about life as we go, but there are also many other things out there that we could know about. Watch some Ted talks or youtube videos, read books about subjects that interest you or even try out some creative Freelance jobs. We live in such a great time where information is so easily accessible so use it to your advantage whilst you’re still here!
Be true to yourself. Life is in a state of constant change and nothing can ever be stable, no matter how much you want it to be or try and make it to be. You need to learn how to rely on yourself. Stress less, smile more and above all, trust yourself that you will do the right thing.