The author Gene Wofle once wrote, “there is nothing stranger than to explore a city wholly different from all those one knows, since to do so is to explore a second and unsuspected self.” Travel reveals not only a larger world but a new sense of self: who we become when away from home, away from habit, even away from language itself, can surprise us. You combine the thrilling uncertainty of travel with personal growth and development — be it through education or working abroad — and you create a recipe for a transformative experience that can alter the course of your professional life.
Many benefits that can come from learning and/or working abroad. Join us as we go on a brief tour of what globetrotting can do for you.
Anyone who has traveled knows how destabilizing the process can be. You’re thrown out of your daily routines, navigating a foreign landscape and unable to fall back on whatever mental autopilot you use at home. You have to be alert and present when you’re abroad. Living, working, and/or learning abroad is a surefire way of building confidence in your ability to feel independent and competent. Being abroad requires a degree of adaptability and openness that can only be learned through direct experience.
The confidence gained from the knowledge that you were able to go far from your comfort zone and still thrive can be profoundly valuable in both your personal and professional lives. Confidence is an attractive quality to prospective recruiters and employers. While a good resume can speak volumes, being able to carry yourself as someone who can handle whatever life throws at you could be the decisive factor in a face-to-face interview.
One benefit of pursuing an education or career goal abroad is the opportunity to learn or practice a foreign language. It is an applicable skill set that translates across different fields and could give you a chance to land a long-term job abroad. It also makes you a sharper and more productive worker: studies have found that people who learn a second language show improvements in their cognitive abilities. These improvements impact memory and executive function (which affects your ability to stay focused and filter out distractions).
Becoming bilingual isn’t the only communicative boost you can get from working abroad. Those first few weeks or months where you’re trying to get your “sea legs” can give you a crash course in reading body language and developing non-verbal communication skills. When you are not fluent in the local tongue, you find other ways to communicate and that lack of fluency can sharpen soft skills like empathy, collaboration, and networking.
What sounds more impressive: “I interned in Paris for six months” vs. “I interned in Iowa for six months”? While you could have had a more productive and beneficial time working in Iowa, Paris has the WOW factor. Working and learning abroad has a mystique to it that can look great on a resume. There’s also a more practical career booster involved in working abroad: it can expand your personal network. Why limit yourself to job opportunities in one country when you can open up yourself to international opportunities?
A Bigger Picture
Travel can expand your understanding of the world. Immersing yourself in another culture not only deepens your global awareness, it could also give you insight into developing technologies and trends that could impact your professional career. Innovation is happening all over the world, and different cultures offer you new practices and perspectives that can enhance your ability to solve problems, brainstorm, and collaborate with others.
If you’re interested in furthering your education, consider studying abroad. Many colleges overseas offer cheaper tuition, which could make the difficulty of securing a visa and moving worth the effort. You should consider the cost of living abroad and that there could be a high level of scrutiny to undergo from the local government in order to maintain your status as an international student.
What You Need to Learn or Work Abroad
What you may need to qualify for an international school or job can vary from country to country, but there is one universal standard you have to meet: owning a valid passport. Keep in mind that it can take months to get a passport. Start your application or renewal early.
You should also gather a curriculum vitae, transcripts, and any relevant professional certifications. Depending on where you go you may need to get these documents attested in order for them to be accepted. If you’re not sure what you need to do to work or learn in another country, it never hurts to check with an embassy or consulate to learn the proper steps.
Speaking of embassies: if you do relocate to work abroad, research the location(s) of your country’s embassy in your new home and keep that contact information close to you. You can register with the U.S. embassy before traveling abroad: the process is free and ensures that your contact information and living arrangements are logged. In the event of an emergency, having that info on hand could be a life saver.
Learn With Rio
Are you an international student who’s interested in learning at Rio Salado College? We have an International Education Office that can help you get started here. You can reach them at 480-517-8416 or via email at OIE@riosalado.edu. Are you a Rio student who wants to travel abroad? The Maricopa Community College District offers international study programs. In addition, the district is one of three community colleges selected by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to receive an IIE American Passport Project grant, which will enable up to twenty-five students at one of MCCCD’s ten colleges to obtain a United States passport and support their study abroad journeys.