With less than a week left of our time in Jordan, here are some of the core lessons I’ve learned from living and serving abroad over the past year.
We are more adaptable than we assume.
While we all have certain preferences, lifestyles, and habits, moving to another country will test these. It’s all in order to stretch and, hopefully, expand your comfort zone. From learning how to successfully cross a busy street by dodging too many cars and taxis to trying all kinds of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, our environment naturally invites opportunities for flexibility and growth into our daily life. Ultimately, we determine how adaptable we want to be.
Understanding culture unlocks hidden doors.
Paying attention to social cues, taboos, and customs is a central ingredient to successful cross-cultural interactions. Culture is so much more complex than language, religion, food, and location. When you begin to learn and honor certain cultural norms, a whole new world opens up to you! Having a respect for these traditions and practices will instantly make you feel more at home in a foreign land. It allows you to build connections among the most unlikely of people and places.
Honoring your values is underrated.
So often in life, we go about our day until something gets under our skin or feels out of whack. Most likely, one of your core values has been ignored, dishonored, or even stepped on by someone else – or even yourself! When you integrate into a new culture, one of the most crucial things you can do is clarify your core values. From then, you have to make intentional choices to live with integrity. For many, we don’t think about this until it’s too late and we feel frustrated. Honoring and living by your values, while respecting the culture and values of others, is never underrated.
You can actually have too much hummus.
Yes, it’s true. There is such a thing as too much hummus. Before moving to the Middle East I, too, didn’t think it possible. That thick, creamy chickpea-goodness that goes with everything from baby carrots to pita chips actually can get old after you have it every day. I have learned that it is necessary to take “hummus breaks” occasionally so I can still appreciate this delectable dish without resenting it. I know that once we’re home, it’s one thing that I will be craving. No region makes hummus quite like the Middle East!
Discomfort will help you grow (if you allow it to)
I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy being comfortable and creating environments where I feel safe and secure. But living abroad provides ample opportunities that will test your comfort zone and make you uncomfortable. I’ve learned that discomfort is a crucial ingredient in developing yourself and ultimately makes you stronger and more resilient. But you have to welcome it into your life instead of fearing or avoiding it. Leaning into the discomfort and looking for the opportunities and lessons in the experience have allowed me to stretch myself and reset my comfort zone this year.