The Abroad Experience: What’s In It For You & Your Employer?

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According to recent findings, the millennial generation have exceeded record numbers in individuals embarking on volunteer and professional experiences abroad. Hailed as the liberal and social-conscious generation of our time, this may come as no surprise.

However, it is important to take note of how this is becoming increasingly valuable in the current state of employability as well as the importance of these international projects in the grand scheme of trying to develop your own personality and learn more things about yourself.

Although the availability of technology has made the world seem more accessible, the UK is traditionally viewed as being a cluster of isolated islands. With only 25% of Brits able to hold a conversation in another language, as well as the recent EU Referendum Result; it seems as though Great Britain is hindering their own global reach.

Looking to the future, it has become apparent that the constrictions placed on older generations to the millennials have become non-existent. Learning a foreign language has become even easier, with 90% of UK millennials agreeing that technology has broken down the language barrier, with apps and communication platforms allowing us to have conversations with literally anybody across the world. This is a stark contrast to the older generations, without the need of textbooks and French dictionaries it seems as if our diverse and globalised world has left us with few excuses to not venture out there. Moreover, speaking a foreign language is frequently referred to as being highly desirable by employers, however the figures for multilingual Brits is still underwhelming. If you manage to go abroad and pick up a language, you are gaining a skill which employers are desperate for!

The reports have been circulated for weeks now, so it is no shock that the UK Economy has slipped down the world rankings, whilst most would put blame on the EU Referendum result, it is widely understood that Asia will be the biggest growth driver in the world economy over the next ten years, with over 60% of UK millennials agreeing with this statement. Along with the ever-increasing globalisation of companies, it makes sense to safeguard your future and ensure you are positively affected by this trend by ensuring that you have an international experience under your belt to showcase to prospective employers.

This sentiment has been widely adopted into the syllabus of many college and university degrees, as educational institutions understand the importance of work experience and the affect it has on an individual’s employability and so encourage their students to do so in order to gain an understanding of the everyday realties of working life whilst working with people from a range of different backgrounds –allowing them to become more easily employed.

However the benefits expand further from professional and career development, embarking on an international experience allows individuals to enhance on personal skills and qualities too. In fact, some argue that the lessons from an experience can sometimes be just as (if not more) important than what is learnt as part of a curriculum. Here are some reasons why:

  1. You will learn more about yourselfwork experience reveals things about you that education can’t. Being pushed into a foreign environment will allow you to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Can you work well in a team? Are you able to communicate with everyone? Do you enjoy the work you are doing? Some people may not even realise they don’t enjoy the career they are studying for until they experience it in real life.
  2. Cross-cultural skills – these have become vital in the current state of the economy, as previously mentioned language skills are highly wanted and needed by employers and so it would definitely help your employability and as a result, benefit your career. However there are also many other work skills that will benefit your career, such as handling change, working independently and being able to communicate efficiently; all which can be enhanced upon during an international experience.
  3. Stepping outside your comfort zone – being in a foreign setting, exploring the world by yourself is a brilliant learning experience. It is not always easy to settle in a new town with people you have never met before, but with this experience you are gaining an insight into human interactions, allowing yourself to have an open-mind by understanding other people’s perspectives whilst developing beneficial interpersonal skills such as empathy, trust and resilience as you become accustomed to your new surroundings. The adventure of traveling is that it a constant learning experience, you rely on your own strengths and capabilities and allow yourself to become more patient and tolerant towards yourself as well as others. These are important (sometimes overlooked) skills which the working world values a lot.
  4. Develop your leadership and management style – if you have an understanding and appreciation of different cultures and lifestyles, you will create a work environment where colleagues and employees can feel involved, trusted and valued. Great leadership involves using the diversity within your workforce to the best of your ability, rather than attempt to create a uniform work culture. If you have worldly experience, you are in the best position to understand that in some cases, an individual’s background culture can influence their skills and work ethic and so you are then able to understand and accept your teams’ different strengths rather than blindly dictate what they are to do; creating a more integrated and coherent team atmosphere, encouraging productivity and positivity.

An international experience will always add value to your future.

At AIESEC, we believe that becoming a world citizen is essential for the development of leadership for the world of today. We provide opportunities for you to embark upon voluntary and internship experiences across the world, allowing you to put your interests into action and gain those skills desired by employers in order for you to develop both personally and professionally.

AIESEC provides over 26,000 young people with the chance to go abroad each year. If you are looking to go on an internship or volunteer experience abroad, please go to opportunities.aiesec.org and check out all our available opportunities.

Sign up to start your journey now!