Christopher Stender: The Benefits of Living Abroad During Your Studies
An accomplished immigration lawyer, Christopher Stender has lived abroad for a collective two years, including a period in Germany as an undergraduate. Beyond the obvious benefits, such as immersion in a foreign language, Christopher Stender notes several additional advantages of such an experience. Perhaps most importantly, an experience abroad teaches empathy: since newcomers to a culture often experience embarrassment or frustration as they attempt to navigate their new environs, as a result they may learn to empathize with those undergoing similar experiences in their own country.
In addition to empathy, people who live abroad learn how to talk to strangers. In our home countries, we rarely strike up conversation with strangers unless introduced by a mutual friend. While abroad, however, individuals must forge new networks of friends and often initiate contact with people they would not normally approach. Since the usual icebreakers used at home no longer work—and there is more of a language barrier—this process becomes even more challenging. In the end, however, people learn the valuable skill of finding common ground with everyone, and that it isn’t as difficult as it first seems. Upon return home, these individuals tend to find that they have greater confidence in themselves and their conversation skills.