Picture this: you’re about to go into your third year of college, and you realize that leaves you two years to do everything you’ve always wanted to do during your four years, be that renting your own house with your friends, landing that dream internship, finally visiting that coffee shop next to campus, or, of course, studying abroad.
Well, that was me.
Cut to April of 2019 when I looked at the metaphorical life clock and realized the time to get on that plane was now. In one month, I found a program, earned permission from my university, and booked a ticket to Granada, Spain for all four weeks of July.
When we think of studying abroad, we know the obvious benefits and consequences: experiencing different cultures, getting to “see the world,” and earning credit while doing it. What I never thought about, though, is how big of an impact studying abroad would have on my career search and, ultimately, long-term career dreams.
Here’s everything I learned, gained, and practiced during my four weeks studying in Granada that changed the career-game for me, and could for you too.
1. Perspective Shift
I knew logically that life in other countries is different from life in the States, but I never felt the differences until I lived them. Studying abroad offers you the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in another culture because you’ll be comfortable knowing you’re doing something you already know how to do: be a student. A week after coming home, I saw my day-to-day life in an entirely new light and adapted the pieces of Spanish culture to the American ones I was raised in. Now I can check “versatility” off under soft skills.
2. Speaking of soft skills…
Flexibility, understanding, risk-taking, problem-solving, AKA, skills employers and recruiters love to see both on a resume and in the workplace. Fast-paced work environment? So were the streets of Málaga. Crisis analysis? I crushed it during that time I was lost in Barcelona with 2% battery. Boss needs fresh eyes on a project? I now know all about perspective.
3. Connections, connections, connections.
Sorry, did I say connections? Imagine telling your boss that your friend in Spain works for the company your company wants to work with, and you can set up a meeting ASAP. Can you say #browniepoints? Not to mention you’ll make friends from across the United States and beyond, always giving you a place to stay when travelling for work. How many times do I need to say “connections?”
For my roommate and now forever-friend, Sofiya Jooma, experiencing another culture couldn’t have been more helpful for her career.
“Being fully immersed in another culture helps you recognize that everyone’s ‘normal’ is different, and that’s especially helpful in the world of speech pathology because ‘different’ doesn’t always mean ‘wrong.’ Language is such an important factor in everyday life, and learning about another one is a great way to be aware of the richness that exists in other cultures.”
As someone studying public relations, myself, getting a global perspective and broadening my reach was so much more than an academic experience. With an understanding of a different way of life, I can relate to and work with my audiences on a deeper, more meaningful level that I wouldn’t have understood before I went abroad.
These skills and tools I gained from studying abroad in Spain for four weeks are incomparable. Now, I can use my stories and experiences in interviews, in the workplace, with clients, and even just walking down the street. I want to say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I know I’ll be traveling again as soon as possible. Living and learning in Spain changed me, and I’m ready to learn and absorb more culture, more language, and more of the world. If anything, look into the options you have to study abroad. Put in the time and effort. You won’t regret it, and neither will your career journey.