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Three key reasons why international experience is a career must

By Jenny Clark 4 months ago

With the growth of the internet and social media, the world continues to grow smaller and smaller – and more easily reachable. Ideas, and now even people, can spread quickly. For students in particular, this reality holds potential for career development and personal growth.

More students are seeking out international experience, in the form of volunteering, service-learning, or internships. Unlike any other generation in history, millennials are spreading their wings – literally. But what does this mean? And, what kind of benefits do international experiences have on a student’s future?

Why gain international experience?

For starters, international experience brings you closer to other cultures, ideas, values, beliefs and religions, in a way unlike ever before. This creates opportunities for tension, growth and development, and for a more collaborative global community.

In terms of career impact and development, there are three main ways that international experience will help students along their career path, while also contributing to projects with sustainable, long-term impact.

1) Personal growth

As millennials we can be very insular, keep to ourselves and our friend groups, and retreat into social media. While these can be used as tools for connectivity, they can also limit your ability to exist as part of a real-life group, or to obtain certain necessary skills associated with becoming a well-adjusted, self-aware adult.

Part of the power of an international experience is – if done through an organization with sustainable projects –  the opportunity to really get to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and to identify certain aspects of your goals, ambitions, desires, and begin working to achieve them. “Know thyself,” as Socrates said.

why should I volunteer

2) Professional development

The concept of professional development has shifted from merely getting workplace experience or training. It has widened to include more hands-on, practical forms of experience, including: volunteer experience (yes it counts), domestic/international internships (yes they are sometimes unpaid, but remember that you’re investing in your future, and this experience is worth a kind of currency that will carry over throughout your entire life), a gap year, or an international service-learning program.

Each of these options will give you certain soft skills that are ideal for any workplace, such as: communication, flexibility, empathy, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork, adaptability, and critical thinking.

Personal and professional development are obviously closely related. The more developed you are personally, with skills such as empathy, relating to others, being able to effectively communicate your feelings and your desires or your frustrations or uncertainties, will tie into the work that you do.

3) Find your passion

Lest this sound cheesy, remember: having a healthy work-life balance and finding meaning in the work that you do is rooted in an understanding and appreciation of your own commitment to living life fully. Participating in international experiences will help you awaken your unique, individual passions, and then integrate them within your lifestyle.

Your experiences abroad will aid you in breaking down complex questions or situations into simpler compartments. Think of it like a stomach digesting food: you are breaking down the different components of your life experiences (your thoughts, your personality, your hopes and dreams, and your external reality), to then piece them back together in an enriching way for your future.

Traveling itself takes you out of your normal environment so that you’re more aware of these dynamics – both internal and external – which then makes you more primed to understand them deeply. Your senses will be excited, and you will be inspired to get involved with your surroundings.

volunteer abroad

Participants in Jalova, Costa Rica learn how to use a GPS system.

The power and value of an international experience comes from how integrated you decide to become within it. The goal is to immerse yourself, and to go beyond mere exposure to cultures, ideas, and experiences, and attempt a deep understanding of them.

This will help you become a better, more well-rounded person, as well as more attractive candidates for further education and employment.

The importance of an international experience cannot be understated in today’s economic climate; get inspired, and then go abroad.

Feel ready to start making a difference? Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning volunteering programs and internships, and choose from community development, conservation, or women’s empowerment projects worldwide.