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Self-concept Clarity Stems from Living Abroad, Experts Say

Silhouette of a woman standing near the airport window / Photo by Getty Images

 

Living abroad had always been a challenge, especially moving away from an individual’s hometown and family. Like all challenges, there will always be a positive outcome with moving abroad.

With modern technology and globalized opportunities, individuals of all ages are choosing to live abroad than work and stay inside their country. Although this seems difficult, with document preparations and separation from their families, this specific trend in human behavior is proven to provide life benefits. This includes improvement in creativity, a decrease in intergroup bias, and career success. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, one of the most important effects of living abroad is "self-concept clarity." They described this as the understanding of one’s self as “clearly and confidently defined, internally consistent, and temporally stable.”

The "self-concept clarity" leads to mental health development, as well as better management of stress and job performance. Moving abroad is unlike most transitional changes, such as breaking off relationships and changing jobs, that tend to decrease or prevent self-clarity. A study conducted by a team of writers published in HBR tested the hypothesis that living abroad gives individuals a better sense of the ‘self.’ All 1,874 participants of the experiment claimed a “well-established measure of self-concept clarity.”

One must note though, that the results do not rule out the possibility that these participants, or at least some of them, have had a clearer sense of self before living abroad. To determine better and more concise results, these writers conducted a second study. This time, they planned to obtain the different effects between 136 people who lived abroad and 125 individuals who have yet to work, study or move to another country. The results from the first and second study showed the same answer -- that living abroad does help in a better understanding of one’s individuality or self.

 

 

As it turns out, "self-concept clarity" is obtained by living abroad due to the individual’s exposure to novel cultural values and norms. This pushes them to engage in diversity and to question their own values and beliefs. Whether they discard or hold on to this identity is completely up to the individual’s brand of self. Moreover, the question that remains is if a better understanding of the self results from "depth" or "breadth" from living abroad. Around 559 MBA students confirmed in a survey that it is, in fact, the length of time used in living abroad that implements self-concept clarity.

However, at present, individuals must first observe and read about the latest political developments that may affect their stay before making a final decision. For example, the US implemented “America First” policies and the UK decision to leave the EU can be barriers to inner growth and discovery. According to the author of "The Road to Somewhere," these political changes alone can affect one's concept of self. He mentioned two definitions of expats: the "anywheres" and the "somewheres." The former is defined as individuals that have determined their identities prior to moving overseas, while the latter is described as those that long for a group or place to obtain the self that can be dramatically affected by these political changes. 

Determined to Leave Your Homeland?

Once these individuals are certainly convinced of living abroad, what’s next? According to an article published in The Telegraph, a person interested in moving overseas should first visit the bank. This also means planning money transfers carefully. Some foreign currency specialists can offer great competitive exchange without the necessary charges. Moreover, it is also important to learn the language. This helps individuals get around the area and develop their social skills. Modern technology also offers a lot of applications online and on mobile phones to help with learning a new dialect.

Sorting out paperwork can be a handful. This is why there are multiple agencies that can help with preparing visas, IDs, driver’s licenses and other needed documents. Individuals should also be aware of tax rules, as these may be completely different from those of their native country. If a person is not sure about the laws regarding taxes, they can always seek professional advice or have someone do it for them. Each country’s healthcare system is different from one another. There are healthcare systems that require contributions, cover costs or provide state-run care from taxes.

Finding a new home might be stressful at first, but individuals can try signing up for local agents that could help them. Houses, apartments, and rooms can also be found online where they can indicate the location, preferred prices, and sizes. However, before searching the worldwide web of available accommodations, interested individuals should also learn about the cost of living. This includes food and transportation expenses. Lastly, it’s vital to know the location and how new settlers can explore the city or town. After all, obtaining self-concept clarity is by immersing in cultural diversities.

 

Young business woman taking the subway / Photo by Getty Images

 

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