Living Abroad: Working vs. Studying

After having done both, studying (in my very early twenties) and working abroad (in my mid and very late twenties), it’s now time to compare those quite exiting phases by pointing out the main similarities and differences. Well, not surprisingly, it turns out that the partying behaviour has changed significantly in the last couple of years and may marks the biggest difference…but let´s see what else has changed so far.

The Similarities

1. “Nope, I am not on holiday!”

People always tend to think that studying or working abroad equals being on vacation. “How come you live in South America and you are not sun tanned at all?”, I got asked quite often when spending Christmas at home. Well…

2. You will feel lonely for the very first time in your life

Being alone for the very first time in your life in a new city without knowing anyone, is one of the key experiences everyone who has ever lived abroad usually needs to go through. As a student it´s quite easy to make friends, as you are usually all in the same boat, spending hours and hours together at university and in pubs, clubs etc.

When working abroad it´s more commonly to end up having dinner alone after work and roaming around like a lone wolf, or ending up binge-watching whatever series on Netflix alone, especially in the first weeks of living in a new city. Interesting to see that this situation makes one do things, that usually  would be labeled  “ridiculous” and “embarrassing” in one´s familiar social environment, like for example reaching out to a complete stranger, mumbling  “hi…hmm…so, you are here as well ha?” and trying to get into a conversation, whilst tensely clasping one´s drink, blushing and smiling awkwardly…(I would say that this method has a success rate of 90%…if it does not turn out successfully at the first time, always keep the following quote of Paulo Coelho in mind “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience”.)

3. Birds of a feather flock together

Everyone moving abroad for the very first time always pictures to end up being best friends with people of one´s future host country – but most expats make the same experience: It´s quite hard to become befriended with natives when you are the foreigner, thus it´s a rather common to make friends within the expat community. This makes sense, as many expats go through the same phases (see point 2) and share the same experiences of getting to know the new, often rather unfamiliar culture, language and customs in a new country (so, this is how it feels like being an immigrant…).

The Differences

1. Going-out: What´s my age again?

The money you spent on partying during your study year abroad is now spent on a nice bottle of wine and a nice dinner, rather than on a bottle of vodka of mediocre quality, some Red Bull and a stop at Burger King´s at 4 a.m in the morning. Going out on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays? What used to be normal when hanging out with your student fellows, turns out to be almost impossible in combination with your now grown – up/working life….oh dear, and let´s not even talk about the recovery phases after a loooooong party night.

2. Comfort is everything

Thinking twice about every penny spent and thus having to cut back when it comes to things like traveling, food, going out, mobility and fashion, is the usual case when studying (abroad). When working in another country, one finally should have the monetary resources to book a proper hotel room, instead of sleeping at a friend´s couch for weeks and having to suffer from terrible backache afterwards. And yes, as one is not going out that much anymore, Yoga and Spinning classes seem to be welcome alternatives (and turn out to be a good investment too.)


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