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15 Reasons Why Being Abroad Will Make You Smarter

15 Reasons Why Being Abroad Will Make You Smarter

It really isn’t a surprise that most young people these days have an ambition to travel the world and get familiar with new cultures and places. We are all exposed to a very specific multicultural environment, merely by being a part of various online communities and active internet users. There is hardly a chance that you’ve never run into a photo of a beautiful, far away country and got the desire to pack your bags and just get going.

Still, moving for business or education purposes, for longer periods of time can seem scary to a lot of people. It is a big move to relocate to a completely unfamiliar environment, and not everyone has what it takes to just get up and move. This is actually a big waste since the benefits of living abroad are numerous and significant. It makes the person richer for a very significant experience. There are numerous studies that show how experiencing life in a different country can make a person smarter, wittier and more charismatic. Let’s see what some of those benefits are.

1. You boost your independence

Moving away from home and starting to find your way around a new and unfamiliar environment is a bit trialing, but just like living alone, it will force you to become more self-reliant. There is nobody around to help you out and you need to adapt to different circumstances, which often means acquiring new skills along the way. Young people in particular can benefit from this, as they are left to their own devices, being responsible for everything from booking hotels, ironing clothes and organizing a fun evening, to haggling over prices and keeping everyone in the group safe.

2. You get more creative

Deciphering an entirely new cultural and social context helps a person develop valuable problem solving skills. The goal of any foreigner is to figure out the new environment as quickly as possible and view it as a social and cultural puzzle that needs to be figured out, and this hones your creativity. You start finding new ways of communicating with people, you are inspired by the local cultural sites, and you learn to improvise when faced with an unfamiliar situation.

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3. You become more flexible

Being in a new and unfamiliar environment makes your realize that most social norms and cultural specifics are not set in stone. You realize that you are in a different environment and that the rules that you are used to do not necessarily apply. Since the majority of people around will be following a different set of social rules, you will adapt more easily and realize that the way people interact can be very different. This experience will prepare you for future encounters of similar nature.

4. You get more tolerant of others

Intolerance usually has roots in fearing the unknown. It also applies to other cultures and nationalities, and if you are uncertain on how to approach people that are of different origin or how to understand them, you are going to benefit greatly from this. There is no better way to learn how to understand a culture than to spend some time living in that particular environment.

Even back home, you begin to open up to different types of people and are more willing to learn about their lifestyle choices. In other words, you start being able to not simply tolerate, but explore and understand worldviews other than your own. People no longer fit into neat little categories like Conservative or Liberal, Weird Vegan or Gun-toting Redneck – you start seeing the nuances and are open to learning about different cultures and sub-cultures around you.

5. You get more interested in other cultures

Once you start getting to know new cultures, you are never going to stop doing it. It really is like opening an entirely new part of your brain that you never used before. You get a new perspective on life and start treating it very differently. It’s not that you become addicted to travel, but you do start to feel an urge for further exploration.

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6. You become able to find your way around unfamiliar places

Most people spend a big chunk of their youth in one place. They know their home town or city quite well, but if you drop them in an unfamiliar place, they start panicking and have a hard time navigating their way around. Moving abroad will let you overcome these kinds of lacking really quickly. After all, your alertness level will be much higher, and you will be forced to learn your environment quickly. Don’t be scared by the word forced, it happens pretty naturally.

7. You learn a new language

No matter if you are attempting to learn a new language or not, you are bound to pick up at least some of it. Sure, if you put in a conscious effort to learn it, you are going to progress much faster. The best way to learn a new language is to be exposed to it on a daily basis. Learning a new language actually has plenty of benefits other than being able to communicate effectively across a bigger part of the globe, so the super effective crash course you get during your travels can really pay off.

8. You develop new interests

Sports, cultural events, music, hobbies, all of these things and more can be quite different on different continents and in different countries. You are bound to fall in love with something from your new surrounding and develop a passion for things you paid no attention to before or didn’t even know about.

A lot of people who considered themselves lazy came back from their trips with a new passion for martial arts, yoga, rock climbing or rafting, while some who were always a bit clumsy and socially awkward fell in love with a particular form of dance. Many have also delighted their friends back home with their newly developed cooking skills, serving up exotic dishes and making tasty treats. You never know what skill or hobby you might pick up and how it can affect your life, but one thing is for certain – it will make you a much more interesting person.

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9. You develop skills to use in multicultural environments

If you move to another country for work or education, chances are that you will not be the only foreigner there. Being able to exchange experiences with people from different cultures can have a lot of benefits for your professional and private life. After all, professionals that have spent time in this kind of culturally diverse environment are highly sought after by multinational corporate conglomerates.

10. You will fear no challenge thereon after

Moving abroad is a big thing and it takes courage, planning and dedication to achieve (in most cases). When you manage to get through something as challenging as this, you will not be afraid to tackle anything.

11. You get the context on global issues

Being up to date with the news is one thing but talking to people that are experiencing the effects of global issues directly can help you get the insight into things that you understood only superficially before. First-hand experience with global issues is definitely a great thing.

12. You learn how to deal with culture shock

Culture shock is a very real thing and can be a traumatic experience if you are not prepared for it. Still, it is not something that is impossible to overcome, and going through it once helps you meet all other similar situations head on. Still, you need to be careful and watch for the culture shock not to overwhelm you. Simple things like chatting with a friend from back home to watching a TV show that you liked to follow in the past.

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Websites like zoogtv.com will allow you to watch streaming Web sites that are blocked outside of the US, like Netflix and HBO GO, no matter where you are in the world, while the National Geographic Web site can help you find out more about local culture. This way, you have a slice of home for comfort and a few pointers on getting used to different cultures.

13. You learn to find your way in different business environments

Business etiquette is different from country to country, and something that is proper conduct in the western culture can be outright rude in interaction with eastern businessmen. A chance to get acquainted with different rules for different business environments is priceless and expands your horizons significantly. You can get plenty of chances to network and develop strong business connections abroad. And knowing the language, culture and code of conduct among businessmen from different areas of the world can significantly improve your career in the future.

14. You get another perspective on life

There are more than a few ways to live one’s life. There are a lot of people that are not aware of this fact because they have never really met someone that is significantly different. Lifestyles are different from country to country, and spending some time somewhere else can broaden your horizons and possibly change your life completely.

15. You become more charismatic

You don’t need anybody to tell you this is true – you know it is. There few things that can develop your personality more than becoming a world traveler. Your mind and your soul become richer, and you become more appealing to everyone. A host of interesting stories, experiences that helped changed the way you felt about issues and shaped you into who you are, that knowing gaze and welcoming smile all experienced travelers share – these are all things that can help you improve your social and love lives.

Photos, the sights you see, souvenirs, everything fades in comparison to the experience that changes you from your core. The change is always for the better, and it is always a cherished memory for people in the end. Don’t let fear hold you back – go out there and meet the people of the world, it will be fun, I promise!

Featured photo credit: Young woman walking on stairs of small street of Vernazza town. Italy via shutterstock.com

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Ivan Dimitrijevic

Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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