There is something amazing about being completely immersed in another culture and independent for the first time in your life, and this certainly was the case for me.
Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to grow in a way that is impossible when you’re in your comfort zone. The relationships you can build and the skills you’ll acquire are absolutely priceless.
When I embarked on my study abroad journey in Spring 2020 with Semester at Sea, I had no idea the profound impact it would have on me as a person and on my professional journey.
After speaking with Daniel Garcia and Ryan Rockmore, the Global Education Advisors at Chapman University, I learned more about the impact studying abroad has on students’ careers, specifically at Chapman University.
I had the unique experience of studying abroad right before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our daily lives. My ability to adapt was pushed to the extreme. My ship rerouted a total of 12 times, and we were quarantined between our docks in Asia and Africa.
I had always been a very type-A kind of person who loved creating schedules and to-do lists, and I quickly learned that no matter what the situation, when you’re living abroad, things rarely go according to plan. I got lost more times than I could count: on public transportation, on my way back to the ship, or even just exploring downtown, but as Daniel Garcia puts it, “everyone survives those types of situations no matter how flustering it can be in the moment.”
Being able to apply those adaptive skills to figure out how you’re going to communicate in that type of situation, succeeding, and getting to your ultimate destination improves your adaptability skills.
“Everyone who has studied abroad has gotten lost, found their way back, and been better because of it.” – Emma Floyd
In addition to my ability to adapt, these events helped me to think critically, which is often listed as one of the core competencies most sought after by employers according to NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers).
Studying abroad forces you to face situations that are entirely outside of your comfort zone. Talking with my classmates who have spent time abroad, they all say the same thing: “If I could do that, I could do anything.”
Global advisor Daniel Garcia commented that students he’s worked with have “increased their confidence through their study abroad experience.” Since coming back from Semester at Sea, I have found myself taking more difficult classes and applying for jobs that I would never have considered beforehand.
Going abroad changed me in the best way possible; it has given me the confidence to go for opportunities that I would never have considered before. Ryan Rockmore said that “the most monumental changes I had from abroad experience were when I was able to consider how I had changed and what was going on inside of me.” For many study abroad alums, confidence, along with adaptability, is one of those key changes.
Seeing the world from another perspective has been crucial to my success both at school and work over the past few years, and I have no doubt that it will give me an edge in the workforce for the rest of my life.
Having an international perspective gives you the ability to think critically about any issue that you’re presented with. It also, more importantly, allows you to work with people whose backgrounds are different from your own.
When studying abroad, I worked on projects with people from all over the world, and in many ways, I learned more from them than I did from the classes themselves.
Daniel put it best when he said that “it’s exploring something new that’s out of our realm of normalcy that helps us hone our career objectives by becoming more familiar with who we are and what we might be interested in career-wise.” Working with people from outside of my personal bubble gave me clarity in my path and helped me to know what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Improve Language Skills
Not every study abroad program will take you somewhere that speaks another language. There are many amazing domestic and international programs that are English speaking. However, even these places offer the opportunity to hone language skills and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Speaking a second or third language is not a requirement for most jobs, but it is always a plus, and no matter what, it gives you the ability to communicate with so many more people in far more places around the world. I have never been particularly talented at languages, and even after taking years of French in both high school and college, I felt like I hardly knew anything. Spending just a few weeks among native French speakers while abroad both in my program and in the country of Mauritius improved my language skills immensely.
The classroom is a great start, but nothing can substitute being around native speakers when learning a language.
Seeing what is available outside of your community is essential to becoming a well-rounded person. It is entirely possible that you will be exposed to a career or industry that you would never have otherwise, and that helps you find a new passion in life. When discussing this, Ryan told me, “Even just your realm of opportunities and what you’re considering could be your next paths just sort of explode when you go into another setting and encounter other options that weren’t even within your worldview.”
Overall, the more that you’re exposed to, the more people you meet, and the more opportunities you have, studying abroad solidified what I want to do with my life, and it’s done the same for many of my peers. It also gave me the connections and friendships to make those career goals possible.
“COVID-19 has made it difficult for everyone to access study abroad education, but Chapman continues to offer opportunities for those who are interested in experiencing something new.”
Spring of 2020 was by far the most impactful semester of my college career. I cannot emphasize enough how much it has helped me to grow as a person and a professional. When closing out my interview with Ryan and Daniel from the Center of Global Education, Ryan said that “if it is within your ability, and access, and financial situation, everyone should have some sort of abroad experience, whether that’s going somewhere else in the states or somewhere else in the world.”
Check out Chapman’s Center for Global Education website for the most up-to-date information and to schedule a first steps session or make an appointment with the Career Team to continue developing your career!