In an increasingly globalized world, studying abroad is now more important than ever. If you’re considering studying abroad in graduate school, here are eight ways it can benefit your education and career.
1. Improve your language skills.
By studying abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to hone your language skills. While studying a language in class is rewarding, applying it to the real world is an entirely different experience. It’s likely you’ll learn the language faster because you’re practicing it regularly. You’ll also be able to pick up conversational language you wouldn’t study in class, enabling you to speak like a local.
Developing your language skills can have a positive impact on your career, as well. Fluency in a second language is often helpful (if not required) when working at organizations with a multinational or global presence. If you’re interested in breaking into the world of international business or global health, for instance, having strong foreign language skills and experience that demonstrates those skills can help your resumé stand out to employers.
Many careers in international relations and diplomacy also rely heavily on foreign language skills. Although there are no specific language requirements to become a foreign service officer, proficiency and experience with a foreign language is a key component of a candidate’s competitiveness during the selection to become a diplomat, ambassador, or other positions with the United Nations.
2. Experience a different style of teaching.
Each country has its own unique style of teaching. Studying abroad can help you expand your academic horizon and develop the capacity to adapt to various educational settings.
Adapting to different styles of teaching can also help you adjust to different management styles, making you more versatile in the workplace. Teaching styles you may encounter abroad include:
- Authority Style: A teacher-centered style where a professor is the authority figure and frequently gives long lectures or one-way presentations. There is a focus on set rules and expectations, and students typically take notes to retain information.
- Facilitator Style: Professors promote self-learning by emphasizing the teacher-student relationship. They help students develop critical thinking skills by teaching them how to ask questions and find solutions through exploration.
- Delegator Style: Professors assign lab activities and give students in-class projects to help them stay engaged. This is a guided learning style that places the teacher in an observer role while helping students remain active participants in their learning.
3. Impress employers.
Studying abroad can help launch your career and make you more competitive in the workforce. It gives you the opportunity to show future and current employers that you have the open mind, resourcefulness, and drive needed to adapt to a different environment.
Many employers are looking for graduates who have international experience. According to a recent survey, 64 percent of employers consider study abroad experience to be important, and 92 percent of employers look for transferable skills that are typically gained from the experience, such as flexibility to new challenges.
“Students who study abroad offer more to the workplace than those who don’t,” Lombardi says. “They offer a fuller package than just a student who’s looked at how things are theoretically, as opposed to students who have the opportunity to apply the concepts in their studies to real jobs and experiences across various cultures.”
Another survey found that nearly 40 percent of companies missed out on international business opportunities due to a lack of personnel with international experience. Studying abroad can be a powerful resumé booster that shows employers that you have the skills they need to achieve their business goals.
4. Enhance your network.
Studying abroad helps you build invaluable relationships with people from all over the world. You broaden your international connections while having the opportunity to meet people that could turn into life-long friends. Some connections can even lead to career opportunities, including internships, job offers, and business partners.
The university where you study will often have a large community of students from local regions and abroad, giving you the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures. The wider your network, the greater the likelihood you’ll be connected to exciting career and social opportunities.
5. Learn about new cultures and perspectives.
Your experience with a different culture allows you to expand your worldview. By studying abroad, you’ll learn about new perspectives and develop cross-cultural awareness.
For example, you may work with people from other countries in your next job. By studying abroad, you’ll be more comfortable with people from different backgrounds, value their unique experiences, and establish a stronger relationship with them.
Oftentimes, our cultural background has a huge impact on how we react to different situations. Gaining a variety of perspectives can help you look at experiences in an entirely new way. By studying abroad, you’ll meet people with different upbringings, helping you widen your horizons and broaden your mind.
In addition, the best way to experience another culture is to immerse yourself in it, and the ideal way to do that is by living in another country.
6. Develop your confidence.
By immersing yourself in another culture, you develop valuable life skills needed for personal growth, including independence and adaptability. These skills can give you an added boost of confidence in your personal and professional life.
Studying abroad can be overwhelming, but the challenges you overcome can help you become a more mature person. You’ll find out that you can often thrive in new, unexpected circumstances, and you’ll boost your communication skills by speaking a new language—helping you further improve your self-confidence.
“It’s a great opportunity to work on cultural competencies, like being sensitive to other cultures, learning how to adapt to new situations, and tolerating ambiguity,” Lombardi says. “These skills are important to almost any job.”
Quickly adapting to your new environment will hone your self-reliance and resilience. From small tasks, like going to the doctor, to larger issues, like learning how to negotiate with a professor or adapt to a different culture’s management styles, your daily life can help you become a more capable person.
Studying abroad can also help you gain more confidence by improving certain skills that help you connect with others, such as:
- Leadership: Strong leadership and team management skills are important in almost any environment. Knowing how to lead and inspire the people around you can help you establish stronger relationships, whether you’re working on a class project with a group of international students or completing an internship abroad.
- Communication Skills: Strong written, public speaking, and negotiation skills are important to communicating effectively, particularly in an unfamiliar environment like a new country.
- Cross-Cultural Awareness: Our experiences, values, and cultural backgrounds guide our viewpoints and actions. Studying abroad reminds you to be cognizant of others’ perspectives. Remember that what is considered appropriate in one culture can be inappropriate in another.
7. See the world.
Studying abroad allows you to see the world and travel to new places you would otherwise not have visited. During your time away from your studies, you can go sightseeing in your new city. You’ll also get to know your region more intimately than if you were just visiting for a shorter period of time.
When studying abroad, you can also visit neighboring regions and countries, as you’re not limited to one place. For example, if you’re studying in Milan, you can visit Florence or explore the Tuscan countryside by train. With international budget airlines and travel deals, exploring the world is becoming increasingly more affordable.
8. Discover career opportunities abroad.
Studying in a new country exposes you to increased career opportunities, depending on your field of study. If you’re interested in finance, for example, consider studying in a region such as London or Hong Kong—two cities well known for business. If you’re interested in tech, then look into Berlin or Tel Aviv.
Oftentimes, organizations hiring international employees want to see evidence that candidates can thrive in a global environment. Studying abroad, especially in an area where you are interested in working, gives you the chance to showcase key skills and relevant experience on your resumé, like cross-cultural communication and an understanding of international policy.