Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 While 20

I turned 21 last week, a day which kickstarted a weekend full of drinks and fun downtown with friends and ended with a music festival (post coming later this week!). In the midst of the revelry I had some time to reflect on what the last year has brought me, and I thought I'd share 10 things I learned and realised while I was 20.

1. Don't be afraid to take a huge risk every once in a while, but be smart. Moving to Germany for a semester was by far the most daring thing I've ever done, but it was also one of the best. I will never forget the people I met and the places I visited, nor the lessons I learned when I was forced out of my comfort zone. But, I did loads of planning beforehand to offset the number of things that could go wrong, and I would never do such a huge undertaking without pre-planning.

2. Sometimes it's okay to be the clueless American. The number of times I had to ask for help in the first month of being abroad because I didn't understand the German language or culture well enough to pass myself off as a native was truly embarrassing, but each time I learned something new and valuable.

3. Honest communication is important. Relationships can be fun, but if there's no  genuine communication about what you expect from each other, it's not going to end well.

4. It's okay to let go of people. I've made semester-only friends in the past, but meeting people abroad and struggling through life in a foreign country together forms a special bond. Knowing you'll never see them again and and not talking after the semester ends is okay, even if it feels like you're failing them.

5. Language proficiency is important. After spending a semester in Germany and a summer with Asian students, I realised that only knowing English and bit of German is not sufficient to effectively communicate with international people outside of a privileged, educated group. I want to pick up a few more languages, even if my speaking will always suffer from an American accent.

6. I am a creative person. After years of convincing myself that I wasn't good enough at art to bother trying, I've shushed my negative side and decided to just go for it without worrying whether the product is good or not. A lack of skill or art knowledge doesn't mean I'm not creative, and I've given up trying to be perfect.

7. It's possible to be politely assertive without being rude. Perhaps the German notion of no-nonsense became ingrained in me, but I don't seem to have a problem anymore with doing things I don't want to do just because I can't figure out how to say no.

8. There is nothing better than a solid set of girl friends. Guy friends are great, mixed friend groups are great. But having a close group of girls around that you can be 100% real with is one of the best things I've experienced.

9. Coffee is love, coffee is life. This doesn't need further explanation.

10. Money spent on experiences is better than money spent on material goods. This point was affirmed during my time in Germany, where I had very little suitcase space to bring extra souvenirs home. And, I can guarantee I will remember the music festival in Mannheim I dropped 40€ on a lot longer than the similarly priced cardigan from Zara. 

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