By Megan Brickley
Time and time again it has been proved that there are many tangible benefits of studying, working and interning abroad. Graduates who have lived abroad are more employable and have higher starting salaries than their peers. However, there are other benefits of living abroad that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Firstly, living abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to become comfortable in your routine; you study in the same places, know all the best routes around campus, and hang out in the same coffee shops with the friends you’ve known since your first week of college.
In comparison, moving abroad is scary and new. Accents are unfamiliar, food tastes funny and they have a different word for ‘washroom.’ They might even speak a different language. All these changes can feel unnerving, but a change to your routine will ultimately be rewarding. You might find that the method of studying taught at the university you’re studying abroad at is a game changer for you, and helps you become more efficient with your time. Or the company that you’re interning at might give you an opportunity for training you wouldn’t have received at home. It might be something smaller that breaks up your routine, like learning a new sport, or realising the beauty of the siesta. Whatever it is, it is always good to mix up your routine and to challenge yourself to be open to improving your efficiency, work-life balance, and how you spend your free time.
The unfamiliarity of living abroad also makes you a creative problem solver. A friend once jokingly described studying abroad as the feeling of forgetting to bring your notes to a class presentation, over and over again! It’s true that when you’re living abroad you sometimes you have to blag your way out of tricky situations. These kind of situations are a little scary, but they help you learn to think on your feet, and teach you important life skills. For example, when you find yourself at a party where you’re the only non-native speaker, you learn important communication skills. Or when you accidentally break a cultural norm and offend your host family, you learn how to work through cultural boundaries. Learning to independently think quickly and creatively is an important skill that will stay with you when you return home, and will help you through a variety of situations in your professional and personal life.
Finally, living abroad makes you check your privilege. For some, living abroad means experiencing a slightly less luxurious way of life and being exposed to a diverse range of people and ways of life. This can make you challenge the Western attitude of living to make and spend large sums of money. Many people who return from living abroad find themselves inspired to take action in aid of the people that they met abroad. For example, if you lived in a place significantly affected by global warming, on your return you might introduce recycling into your student apartment, or lobby your local government for environmental reform. Or if you lived somewhere where there’s a large gender pay gap, you might write articles and blog posts to raise awareness of this.
Wherever your time abroad takes you, you can be sure that it will be a rewarding time for you, and that you will reap the benefits for years to come. If you’re interested in going on the adventure of a lifetime, and returning a more confident, independent and accepting person, visit the Study and Go Abroad Fairs to learn more about opportunities to study, work, intern and volunteer abroad.