Why You Should Go Abroad – Perspectives from the Business World

When deciding whether to go abroad or not, I really tried to weigh the pros and cons of embarking on an experience like this. I found that many of my pros and reasons for wanting to travel abroad were due to advancement in the business world. Studying abroad is such a unique experience in which one can gain a variety of different skills that ultimately serve to make you a more marketable candidate in your future job search

One of my biggest pros was the language I would be exposed to. By traveling abroad to Viña del Mar, Chile, I would get to experience a type of South American Spanish. I knew this would help me in life after graduation as many of the international companies I’ve looked into have operations in Latin and South America. By going abroad, I got the chance to improve my Spanish speaking skills in the area I intend to use them after graduation. Beyond the regional advantage of practicing my Spanish in Chile, the fact that I can now put Spanish language competency on my resume will go a long way in my future job search. Especially in the realm of International Business, employers love seeing bilingual capabilities.

I knew that traveling abroad would push me out of my comfort zone and help me to gain new skills as well as grow as a person. However, I didn’t know the extent of how it would affect my life (and my resume) until I got back. I’m lucky in that we have at my university a post study abroad course that helps us decode all that we learned abroad, as well as really focus on the skills we acquired. Here is a list of just some of the skills that I learned from my time abroad:

-To take initiative and risk

-To be more independent in my choices and actions

-To communicate despite barriers

-To be more self-aware, as well as self-confident

-To overcome obstacles in order to achieve my goals

-To be a smart traveler

-To be more sensitive to differences in customs and cultures

-To be more open-minded and flexible

In a mock interview I had last week, I found that most of the questions asked could be answered by using this experience (although as a disclaimer: I would not advise using the same example in every answer to every interview question…).

“Name a time when you had a problem with communication and the steps you took to overcome that.”

…I’m not sure I can name a day that I was abroad and DIDN’T have some type of problem with communication. The experience is full of me not understanding what a professor or host family member or waitress is trying to communicate to me.

“Give an example of a time you had to use your Spanish skills to solve a problem.”

You mean like the time my friends and I found ourselves hotel-less in downtown Santiago, at 11 o’clock at night, and it seemed like every hotel and hostel we called was full? I can tell you all about the taxi driver that was an absolute angel (pronounced “ahn-hel” because it’s Spanish) and how I used my limited vocabulary to eventually find a room for us.

Not only are these new skills beneficial in the interview itself, but also to get the interview in the first place. My resume displays my study abroad experience as additional education, and has bullets listing some of the skills mentioned above as well as my level of Spanish proficiency. It’s just one more thing to differentiate me from my peers that are applying from the same jobs.

I would greatly encourage those considering to study abroad to look at the practical benefits that come with an experience such as this one. And, in addition to making you a more employable and well-rounded person, it’s also a lot of fun. The people I met and opportunities I had made my study abroad one of the most life-changing semesters of my life. Just Go!

With Luis Valdes, CEO of Principal International, who spoke at Drake last fall

with Luis Valdes, CEO of Principal International, who spoke at Drake last fall

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