I spent seven months living abroad in Reunion Island and I discovered how much one can learn simply by being interested. While I was there, it wasn’t work to learn new things, I learned them just by doing the things I wanted to do and by asking the questions I wanted to ask. While I had been in Canada studying, I wanted to know lots of things, but it seemed like effort and time spent because these things had no immediate application to my life and there wasn’t anyone that was actually interested to know that information from me.
All of a sudden all the things I was supposed to have learned in school had an actual application.
When I was abroad, suddenly people were interested in knowing about me. In knowing about the country I came from, its history, its culture, what I liked to do. People wanted to know about my ancestors and about my religion, things I had previously shrugged off because having to explain them seemed to serve no purpose when I was at home.
And I wanted to know about the people where I was living. I fell in love with a place and I wanted to be able to explain that to other people who didn’t know about it. I wanted to understand the food, the language, the social dynamics, the music. All of a sudden all the things I was supposed to have learned in school had an actual application and I found myself learning faster and remembering the things I learned better than I ever had in school.
I learned the most French—not when I was studying grammar and vocabulary (I did do this willingly by myself, because I’ve always been an extremely studious person)—but when I was driving in the car with a friend whom I wanted to talk to and connect with. I learned when I was doing activities, like camping or cooking, with people that I liked. I learned when I was travelling in Madagascar and since I studied African politics in university, I wanted to ask the guides about the politics, the culture and the people.
In Reunion Island, I went hiking, I swam over coral, I saw villages surrounded by nothing but mountains. I went to parties, I drank what other people were drinking and I talked about what other people wanted to talk about. I played tennis and I tried as hard as I could to be good at it because I loved that I had discovered a new sport that I enjoyed but had never tried before.
I participated in everything I felt the desire to participate in. But I also sat back and I observed, because that’s what I like to do. The things I wanted to do, I found didn’t take nearly as much effort as I once thought was necessary.Add this article to your reading list