(Reading Time: 7 minutes and 7 seconds) Every year millions of students from all over the world jump on a train or a plane for hours to start a new life as a student in a foreign country. Sometimes compelled by their parents, relatives or friends, but most commonly driven by their own curiosity and purpose of life, many young men and women leave the comfort zone of their hometowns and their ties to their land, venturing into a new and exciting experience. Living abroad, far away from the “world you know” is a challenging experience, and often too scary for many. And even when you think you have read a lot about what you will find, and you feel well-informed, it is almost impossible to really be fully prepared for what you will encounter. However, those brave ones who have taken the leap will probably share the same insight: you just got to jump right in, give it a chance, and figure things out as you go. However, even if the road may seem bumpy at times, studying and working abroad will bring to your per
- It opens your mind. It is probably the most important of all the outcomes of an international experience. Being abroad challenges your own vision of the world. You are in a constant learning process, where things are not done the way you do them. You find yourself in a particular culture, listening to another language, and experiencing new traditions. The people around you may dress differently, behave in “strange” ways, believe in another god, or have rules and manners that clash with your own. With the absolute necessity to adapt to all of this, you become intrinsically (and often inadvertently) more tolerant, more aware, and more respectful. Very often you may find yourself listening attentively to the deliberations of others, questioning some of your own cultural structures and beliefs, and even liking or assuming foreign habits and norms of behavior because they just feel right to you.
- It allows you to learn new languages. Pretty self-explanatory. If you go to a country that does not speak the same language as you, you will for sure end up picking up on the new language. It is not only a great skill to develop but may also help expand your horizons, since all languages have their own sayings, which in most cases are charged with a lot of wisdom. And even if you end up in a country with the same language, it is much more likely for you to be around people who don’t speak it natively, and the same development will apply. Our tip: engage as much as you can and let the language sink in!
- It increases your communication skills. Not only due to the fact of learning a new language, but also because you will need to adjust to the communication rules of the new country. In any social group, you will find jokes that are most liked, taboos, gestures and non-verbal expressions that mean something different, and even colors that symbolize diverse intentions. Now, if you are also surrounded by fellow foreign students, multiply all those factors by the number of nationalities around you, and there you go. A thousand new structures you need to navigate every time you open your mouth!
- It potentiates your social skills. Directly connected with the two features above, once you move to another country, you have to start you own social environment from scratch. This requires creating new connections, filtering people you really enjoy or work well with, and understanding and adapting to other types of social activities, social circles, etc. All of this done in a very small span of time. This huge challenge will massively develop your social skills, even if you are naturally an introvert, and will make you more aware of diversity and how to handle it.
- It makes you a better team player. Add one more on top of this pile of social development. With your newly acquired language, communication and social skills, and your better understanding of diversity (both in terms of multiple cultures and personalities in a group), you will enhance your abilities as a team player. Understanding different roles within a group and what every person can bring to the table when working together is a huge asset for group assignments or collaborative projects. What is more, people who have had an international experience tend to become better listeners, more empathetic, more socially analytical, and overall better leaders (and employers know this!).
- It increases your flexibility and adaptability. When living abroad you are in a constant process of catching up with a changing environment and new stimuli that you wouldn’t even have imagined. You become more adaptable, allowing for more flexibility in your habits and “ways of doing”, since you are forced to blend with the environment. In a fast-changing world like the one we live in, where advances in technology, sudden changes in living conditions, and drifts in demand are the base of our economies and our existence, both adaptability and flexibility are traits of high value for future employers, life challenges, and even personal relationships.
- You gain problem-solving skills. Very much connected with the above-described, your capability to resolve unexpected obstacles exponentially increases when these become almost a daily thing. As a student abroad, you will encounter tons of systems, bureaucracy, rules, establishments, etc. that you need to sort out in order to move on with your daily tasks. In addition, these often work very differently than in your home country, and you have to deal with the language barrier. Navigating through all of this will make you a master of problem-solving and will help maximize this quality in your future career.
- You become more independent and self-sufficient. From learning how to do the laundry properly (yeah, you should see the words on a German washing machine - they are a lot of fun), to traveling across the continent or finding the best deals for your phone plan, you are day-after-day learning new things, far away from the very useful help of your family and friends. Figuring things out on your own (spoiler alert! Finding help abroad is also figuring things out for yourself) will increase your independence and self-sufficiency. As a direct positive effect, you will also gain more confidence and self-esteem, making you a stronger person.
- It makes you more appealing to other markets. An increasing number of hiring managers across the world value candidates that present some international experience in their background. This is not because it looks exotic in your CV, but because good leaders and HR experts know very well that belonging to that experience are all the characteristics (and many more!) that we have been talking about in this article. Characteristics that will make you a much more appealing candidate for a job position in your current job market, but also in other markets internationally. Don’t ever underestimate what one or two lines in your resume are telling about you—that you can contribute with not only your own culture but what you have learned during your experience; that you know specific languages, operating systems, working techniques, maybe unique in that country; that you are a person who takes risks; that you are resilient; that you know how to overcome failures; that you learn fast; that you are not afraid of the unknown… I could keep the list going.
- It opens doors for your future career and endeavors. Ending as strong as we started, we cannot leave out one of the most important perks of your international experience: the networking. Leaving your family and friends behind is hard, we know, but the good thing is that your life will fill with new people, meaning new opportunities, very different to those you would have encountered in your hometown. You will have the unique chance of getting to know people from many different backgrounds and create fruitful personal and professional relationships that will certainly go beyond your period as a student or your first work experience abroad. You never know if that classmate, that neighbor, or that random guy at the bus stop will at some point become your business partner, your investor, your coworker, your mentor, your best friend, or even your spouse. Keep your eyes (and your soul) wide open to embrace the new relationships that you will create in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Now that you know all the perks, why not take your first step at KLU?
Written by: Patricia Bendala
Student Recruitment & Marketing Manager (MSc Programs)
Is Hamburg sounding like a good destination for this experience? Then you can be ahead of the class by knowing how to find accommodation in the city.
If you want to receive more articles like this, subscribe to the KLUster! The KLUster is a monthly newsletter that gathers blog articles, recommended readings, useful tips and much more to inform you, entertain you, and inspire you.