When traveling the world, there are endless opportunities to learn and grow. Most people who have been abroad for an extended period of time, usually for work, study or volunteering, say that their experience was life changing. I can totally relate.
During my lifetime of travels,
- I learned that my comfort zone is much larger than I thought;
- I built my confidence after seeing how independent I was,
- I realized how resourceful I could be; and
- I became much better at managing my money.
While these are great things to gain from travel, I see so many missed opportunities when I speak to people returning from study abroad, teaching English abroad and many other global adventures. Outside of learning a bit about the local culture and language, travelers typically miss opportunities to build up specialized knowledge which can help them stand out among grad school and job applicants.
No matter what your global adventure is –school, work, volunteer or pure travel–opportunities for learning are all around you. Next time you find yourself in a new place, think about the following things:
History, Politics & International Relations – In our globalized world, it’s very helpful to understand the context in which one is doing business. This includes relations between your country and the country you’re doing business with, understanding the political climate and major historical moments in that country’s history. If the old say that ‘history repeats itself’ is true, then this knowledge will come in handy!
Culture, customs & Language – Being able to communicate effectively within a region of a world is a highly desirable skill. So why not travel within a region and try to understand as much as you can about how locals behave so that next time you’re conducting business with natives of that country, you can respect their social norms and customs and make a great impression on your clients.
Industry – Understanding the context where you’re doing business or with whom you’re doing business is critical. But so is understanding certain industries that originated and thrive in other parts of the world. Want to start a coffee chain in the US? Why not head to coffee producing countries to learn their techniques and give Starbucks a run for their money!
Download the #ProfDevAbroad workbook for examples on how to gain specialized knowledge while abroad as well as resources to help you get started!