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News article11 October 2018European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion2 min read

Can living abroad boost your self-awareness?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, self-awareness can be defined as the ‘conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings’. It’s our ability to define who we are as people, understand our values and know what we want from life.

Can living abroad boost your self-awareness?

But what does all of that have to do with living abroad?

The study

A recent study by a group of researchers from Rice University, Columbia University, the University of North Carolina and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology explored the relationship between living abroad and people’s levels of self-awareness. They found some interesting links.

The study was based on feedback from almost 2,000 people, including some who had lived abroad and others who hadn’t. As reported by the World Economic Forum, the results showed that living abroad increases people’s self-awareness because it “prompts self-discerning reflections on whether parts of their identity truly define who they are or merely reflect their cultural upbringing”. Simply put, living among a foreign culture challenges us to reflect on our true values and who we are – rather than simply accept the values and sense of self we’ve been raised with.

The study also found that the length of time that people spend abroad is more significant than the number of countries they’ve lived in. The longer they’re away, the more time they have for self-reflection.

The benefits

Having a high level of self-awareness can help us to strengthen relationships, improve our skills and move our lives in a positive direction. It boosts both happiness and confidence because knowing who we are means we can make decisions that lead to happiness more easily. This leads to greater confidence.

These decisions don’t just relate to our personal lives. There’s also evidence that a greater sense of self-awareness can have a positive impact on employment, by improving people’s ability to make decisions within the workplace and about their careers in general.

The conclusion

While living abroad can be an exciting adventure, it can also be so much more. If you’re already there, put some time aside for self-reflection – you never know where it might lead you. And if you haven’t started down that path yet, then hopefully this article has shown you that there’s much more to the experience than you might have first assumed.


Related links:

Research study: The shortest path to oneself leads around the world: Living abroad increases self-concept clarity

World Economic Forum: What living abroad does to your self-awareness


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