When you study abroad, you're taking in twice the knowledge. The textbook may teach you more or less the same curriculum as it would at home. But the people you're surrounded by, the culture shock, the everyday occurrences that strike you as odd or different-those are all forms of "teachers" you wouldn't be exposed to at home, safe inside your comfort zone. Learning about the world hands-on, as you do abroad, is just as marketable to potential employers as what you learned from PowerPoint slides or assigned readings. Discover what it truly means to be globally-minded.
"Culture" is a very loosely defined term, and may apply to many aspects of the job you're seeking. Employees may come from different cultural backgrounds; potential clients may be based abroad, and have different cultural customs; and your job may have its own particular work culture. A ‘global mind-set’ describes an outlook that naturally considers wider global influences and the self in relation to others; attributes including curiosity and openness contribute to a global mind-set. Cultural agility, the ability to absorb and adapt to new cultures, is also highly desirable, as is a cultural sensitivity that is often demanded of people when they study abroad. Hopefully you picked that one up!
Problem solving skills
Living abroad throws all sorts of new and unforeseen problems your way, and chances are, if you completed your time overseas, you learned to resolve most of them. From seemingly petty problems like smoothing over cross-cultural issues with roommates, to more substantial ones like dealing with a foreign government's bureaucracy, being abroad isn't always a walk in the park. Problem solving is a skill employers look for in a strong applicant, so navigating those issues abroad while surely a headache at the time, gives you a great bank of experience to draw from, and talk up during the interview.
During your time abroad, it's likely you had to fend for yourself a bit more than you were accustomed to. Being much farther away from friends and family naturally begs you to become more self-sufficient. You’ll need to learn things as you go; pick up and carry on during hard times; even learn to boil pasta far away from your mother’s helping hands. Your employer will appreciate this autonomy, as it shows you'll be capable of managing and completing tasks that come your way.
Advanced social skills
Unfortunately, airlines these days set a pretty firm size and weight limit on luggage, and all your friends and family won't fit inside. Going abroad means you had to form a new social circle. When you start a new job, you'll need to be aware of appropriate social behaviour, mingle with new colleagues, impress your boss, and generally mesh well with the team. Draw on all those social skills you picked up overseas!
Attributes synonymous with flexibility and adaptability are frequently emphasised by employers; global leaders must be able to handle ambiguity and work on projects with no pre-determined outcomes. These skills can be enhanced by a strong sense of self-awareness and reflective learning. You've already adapted to a whole new culture, schedule, university requirements, possibly even a new language. Adapting to a new workplace shouldn't be too hard for you, and employers will be grateful for this.
Studying abroad opens up your mind in ways you might not imagine before. Even in seemingly similar cultures, there are always differences that may have never occurred to you had you stayed in your sheltered bubble all through university. Gaining new perspective abroad will help you be more creative, see opposing sides, and view decisions from different angles in the workplace.
Appreciation of diversity
Your decision to study abroad demonstrates that you understand the importance of diversity---both cultural diversity, and on a more personal level, that of diversifying your academic experience and views. Hopefully you’ll also be able to appreciate diversity in the workplace, and even come to expect it for a company to thrive.
Ability to take risks and use initiative
Just the fact that you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone in the first place shows great risk. And making the move abroad takes initiative—the opportunity didn’t just fall into your lap; you sought it out. Employers recognize that in a prosperous company, their employees should be willing to show initiative and, to a certain extent, take risks.
It’s no surprise that employers are eager to hire individuals with international experience. Market your newfound skills well, and it shouldn’t be difficult for your worldly, well-rounded self to land the job!
Experience a new culture
Dee Roach, group manager and European marketing for the Navitas Education Group, says nothing beats the immersive international experience you get while studying abroad. “The best way of finding out about another culture is by immersing yourself in it, and you can only do that by living in a country. Once you are working, your holiday or experiences overseas might be limited to only two to four weeks per year so studying abroad is a great opportunity to remain in a country and learn all about it over a longer period of time.” If you’ve stayed closer to home for your undergraduate degree, enrolling in a master’s program can be the perfect time to get international experience.
Make friends from around the world
It’s likely that the university you choose for your international studies will have a large community of students both from the local area and all around the globe. If you take full advantage of this opportunity, you could graduate having established lasting friendships with people based in many different countries – great for future trips, and also a good basis for an international professional network. As Dalferes says, “Spending time studying abroad can provide an excellent opportunity to make new contacts and build invaluable relationships with peers from around the world."
Being part of an internationally diverse academic community can also enhance the quality of your learning, providing a wider spectrum of opinions and expertise – a point made by Professor Kimberly Hutchings, program director of the MSc in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Become truly independent
The experience of university is, for most new students, a steep learning curve in gaining independence. But studying abroad takes that a whole step further, challenging students to really develop as individuals. Dee Roach says, “You obviously have to cope on your own when you are studying abroad. You have to be able to look after yourself and sort out your own affairs.”
Get ready for an international workplace
Working collaboratively in multi-cultural teams and managing complex interpersonal relationships is essential for global senior managers. Han continues to explain how this international experience prepares students for future careers: "Students are more open to new knowledge and expertise when abroad, and that knowledge is often more easily applicable and adaptable to situations requiring international interaction; thus one can expect to be more competitive in today's era of globalization.”
Lauren Welch, head of advising for the US-UK Fulbright Commission in London agrees that studying abroad is likely to enhance your future job prospects. "Employers are looking to graduates to have international experience either by studying or working abroad. Now there are many more opportunities to study and work abroad, or stay on and work afterwards.”
Develop your language skills
For many international students, studying abroad is a chance to develop language skills, either through studying in a second language or by practicing the language spoken locally. A growing number of courses around the world are taught in English, particularly at graduate level, and of course proficiency in English has many applications across all kinds of careers. But indeed any additional language skills are an asset.
“If you have an ability, or want to develop the ability to speak the local language wherever you are based, I would argue that you will get a lot more out of the experience. This in turn can lead to even more effectiveness as an employee; I think this applies for every country we work in.” (BNP Paribas)
Study in a global hub for your field
Studying abroad is also a great opportunity to spend time in a location which is known as a leading global hub in your field of interest. This could mean you may have opportunities to learn from renowned experts and guest speakers, and perhaps gain some impressive work experience. For example, those studying finance may be attracted to global hubs such as New York, London or Hong Kong, while those interested in politics may be looking at universities in major political centres such as Washington DC or Brussels.
Dee Roach also notes that some countries are especially well-known as leaders in a particular field of research and development, or a particular strand of education. “Germany is synonymous with advances in engineering technology, the US with top business and management programs such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford (to name but a few), Australia screams art and design and sport, and Canada has its world-renowned ‘co-op programs’.”
Travel more widely
Finally, studying abroad is a chance to travel more widely around the world region in which you’re based. “Obviously you will not just be tied to the university or city you are studying in. You will also have the time and opportunity to travel within and around that country,” Roach says. “Country-hopping during holidays and weekends is also possible, depending on where you are based. This will normally be with the added benefit of cheaper travel, as you will be armed with your student (discount) card.”