You might have come across several articles on Why Study Abroad, Benefits of Studying Abroad or How Study Abroad Will Help Your Career. Here is my own story on How Study Abroad Experience Shaped Up My Career Development and Progression.
If you are a study abroad aspirant, or thinking if study abroad is worth or not, I hope you will find this post useful. Below are top 10 ways in which my study abroad experience influenced my career path.
Developing a Broader & International Outlook
This has been one of the most significant changes in my life due to the study abroad experience. I lived in the UK, Netherlands and Australia for considerable time. Besides, I have had the opportunity to visit countries like France, Germany, Belgium, Spain and few others. More importantly, I came across people from various corners of the world (I know our globe is a sphere, and there are no corners). I met people from at least 40 different nationalities; and made good friends. Majority has been from UK, Netherlands, India, China, USA, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Ireland, France, Poland, Portugual, Turkey, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Israel, Singapore, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palestine, Nepal, Denmark, Sweden, UAE etc.
I experienced busy and vibrant cultures in big cities like Birmingham, London, Amsterdam, Sydney, Glasgow, and also the quiet and laid back nature in student cities like Oxford, Cambridge and Utrecht. It helped me to develop cross-cultural awareness and cultural intelligence. I understood the values, customs, lifestyles, food habbits and languages of different cultures and countries. I became a global citizen, or al least I would like to think so. Consequently, I became more open-minded, responsible, respectful, adaptable, resilient, humble, curious and knowledgeable. I am proud to say that I did become a global citizen, courtesy the study abroad experience.
Experiencing a New Style of Education & Developing Soft Skills
The foreign education system is quite different from the Indian education system. They put much more emphasis on self-study and group-work. I learned about the practicalities much more. Besides, I also had the opportunity to work on my soft skills. The soft-skills part are often ignored in the Indian education system. Studying abroad also provided me the opportunities to do part-time jobs. This again helped me to pick up essential inter-personal skills, apart from helping me with my personal expenses.
Knowing Myself and Becoming Independent
You can always go to foreign countries for holidays. But, living in a foreign country on your own is a different experience altogether. You become independent and learn taking care of yourself. Honestly, this is something you will hear from anyone who has been to abroad for education (or any other purpose). The study abroad experience helped me to know more about myself. It was great self-discovery process for me. I figured out my strengths and weaknesses. I discovered some of my hidden talents as well. Throughout my stay in abroad, I evolved mentally, emotionally and socially. The international exposure was very significant in broadening up my mindset and made me self-dependent. It challenged my beliefs, reinforced my convictions, and helped me to grow.
Before leaving for UK, I was hardly into cooking. After moving staying in abroad for almost 6 years, I have developed cooking as a hobby. Besides, I had to take of literally everything like looking and arranging new accommodation, opening bank account, managing finances, visa formalities, managing job and personal life, shopping daily necessities, cooking, washing and ironing clothes, taking care of my own health, travel & holidays and so on. I became more rational with my thought process and decision making. This sense of responsibility is very much appreciated by the employers.
Developing People Skills
I started my career in the hospitality, retail and customer service segments during my student life. As part-time jobs, they were mainly intended for taking care of my personal expenses (the studying and accommodation costs were being taken care through the bank loan). But, those part-time jobs helped me to develop important transferable skills.
During my studies at Aston University, I worked at the Air Nightclub and Salisbury’s. As a part of my job description, I had to deal with customers all the time. The nightclub role was quite challenging as my shifts were from 8:30 pm till 7 am in the morning. But, at the same time, it helped me to pick up develop vital skills, and made me tougher than before. The Sainsbury’s role was comparatively more relaxing. Besides, I had the chance to deal with customers who were more sober. Both the roles improved my communication skills, and taught me how to work with other people while working towards a common goal – customer satisfaction. I had also got a nice recognition during my stint with Salisbury’s as I got the Best Employee of the Month (November 2009). I got a Gift Voucher of 10 too. But, more than the monetary gain, it was of great personal (and emotional) satisfaction. It was a great confidence booster.
Securing International Job Opportunties
This is very obvious for anyone with a foreign degree. Studying and working in different countries and environments helped me a lot to shape up my career curve. During my employment with the University of Oxford, I became more keen to enhance my international experience. When I applied to Utrecht University in the Netherlands, my UK experience was very instrumental in getting me that job. My hiring manager (who later became my Supervisor) had told me that they used to get approximately 60 applications from India and China per month. My international experience (and the Oxford experience) helped me to stand out among all the applicants. I had the similar edge when I got the opportunity in Australia.
Knowing & Learning New Languages
Though I didn’t become proficient in several foreign languages. But, I did pick up the knack of knowing new languages. During my student life in the UK, I used to interact a lot with German, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish people. Later, during my professional life, I also joined an evening class for German language. I learned basic German for 6 months. In Oxford, I used to share the house with one German and one Swiss guy. So, I had the opportunity to pratise German as well. This opportunity is hardly there when you are living in your home country. Knowledge of basic German did help me later with my job applications, and also interacting with people when I was in Germany. During my stay in the Netherlands, I picked up few phrases of Dutch as well.
I also came to know basic words of Chinese, Spanish and French languages during my stays in UK, Netherlands and Australia. Besides, I also came to know bits and pieces of other Indian languages like Punjabi, Gujrati, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. However, I am not proficient in these languages anymore. But, starting a conversation and greeting foreign people in their own languages is still possible. Knowing foreign languages has been very useful during my job applications and interviews.
Developing A Sense of Mobility
Studying and working in different environments and cultures has had a profound effect on my career development. Apart from experiencing different cultures, I developed personal and professional mobility – both the motivation to search beyond my immediate surroundings for opportunities, and the ability to rapidly and seamlessly adapt to new conditions. This quality definitely helped me to shape up my personality and career development.
Developing Contacts and Improving Networking Skills
This is again another no-brainer. Meeting new people from diverse backgrounds and making new friends is a great by-product of the study abroad experience. But, developing meaningful relationships is a useful art that can be mastered through study abroad journeys. My contacts were key sources of getting to know about job opportunities. They also helped me with proof-reading my CV and cover letters. I still remember how my supervisor and colleagues at Oxford & Aston helped me with my job applications for Netherlands and Australia. More recently, I had three job offers; and I was in the middle of dilemma which one to accept. My friends, former colleagues and former supervisors helped me to take the final decision – as a result, I am now working with Stoodnt.
Developing New Interests
The study abroad experience was very influential towards doing new things to do and developing new interests. Things like cooking on a daily basis, travelling to a new place every alternate weekend, candid photography, or writing blogs – I am sure I wouldn’t have done this while studying in my home country. Writing, which started as a hobby, is now a major part of my job at Stoodnt. There is nothing better when you get paid for pursuing your interests.
The study abroad experience triggered many changes in my life and personality. One of the biggest changes in my mindset was jumping into the land of unknown. I learned to see challenges as opportunties rather than threats. I got familiar with the life in abroad as an international student and as a working professional. I got familiar with abroad education systems, universities, courses, cultural differences, application process, admission requirements, visas and international laws and regulations.
During my stay in abroad, I used to advise others (mostly juniors and few close acquaintances) on study abroad process (applications, essays, scholarships etc.). I did help few people to get admission (few with full scholarships) in some of the prestigious universities in the UK, USA, Australia and Europe. Due to my own first-hand experience in three different countries, and through interactions with other study abroad aspirants, I developed a knack for study abroad consulting. I became aware of the needs of study abroad aspirants, and also about the process of admissions and scholarship processes. I enjoy interacting with students, and love helping them with their career related queries and study abroad process.
Author: Tanmoy Ray
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