I turned 20 during my semester abroad in Avignon, France, and while I was thrilled to have the chance to live in a foreign country, it was not always easy. Adjusting to life with a French family and struggling with a language that hardly resembled what I learned in school was exasperating at times, but also incredibly rewarding. In the span of a few short months I grew to appreciate a different way of life than what I knew back in the states, and I also learned that just because I'm used to a certain way of doing things, does not mean it's the only way. Now, after spending over two years in France, I can say that no country does everything perfectly, and that the best way to improve is to look elsewhere and take note of how other people do things. Open your eyes and observe, and you just may discover something worth trying.
One of the biggest differences that has impacted me while living abroad is the level of materialism in different countries. Western European countries resemble the U.S. in a lot of ways, but they are less controlled by material goods. Take children for example : an American child has an entire room overflowing with shiny plastic toys, while a French child has a small chest of toys and books. This is also reflected by the fact that in France, every store closes its doors on Sunday, whereas it's rare to find stores in the U.S. that shut their doors for an entire day during the week.
That said, I tend to wait till the last minute to do many things, including buying flowers for my Mom on Mother's Day. There are some days where I (and my mom as well) am very grateful for America's devotion to consumerism.