With the growth of the internet and social media, the world continues to become more easily reachable. Ideas, and now even people, can travel 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. But what does this mean? And, what kind of benefits does an international experience have on a student’s future?
Why gain international experience?
International experience brings you closer to other cultures, ideas, values, beliefs and religions, by living and working in a different environment. This creates opportunities for 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) It encourages personal growth
An international volunteer experience is sure to help take your mind off of technology for some time.
Technology can be used as a tool for connectivity, but it can also keep us well within our comfort zones and allow us to retreat into social media.
This could limit your real-life interactions, and make it harder to gain certain skills – such as appropriate social interaction and communication skills .
If done through an organisation with sustainable projects, your international experience could be more positive, by allowing you the opportunity to really get to know yourself, and your strengths and weaknesses, while making a positive impact on the world.
2) It promotes professional development
The concept of professional development has shifted from merely getting workplace experience or training. It now includes more hands-on, practical forms of experience, including: volunteer experience, domestic or international internships, a gap year focussed on personal or professional development, 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 closely related. Developing yourself personally, with skills such as empathy – relating to others, being able to effectively communicate with them – will tie into any work that you do.
3) It can help you to find your passion
Having a healthy work-life balance, and finding meaning in the work that you do is rooted in your own commitment to living life fully. Participating in international experiences will help you awaken your unique, individual passions, and then integrate them into your lifestyle.
Your experiences abroad could help you to break 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), and piecing them back together in an enriching way for your future.
Travelling itself takes you out of your normal environment so that you’re more aware of these dynamics – both internal and external. This then makes you more primed to understand them deeply. Your senses will be excited, and you will be inspired to get involved in your surroundings.
The power and value of an international experience comes from how much you immerse yourself in the experience. The goal is to go beyond mere exposure to cultures, ideas and experiences, and attempt to understand them more deeply.
This will help you become a better, more well-rounded person, as well as a more attractive candidate for further education and employment.
The importance of an international experience cannot be underestimated in today’s economic climate. Get inspired, and then go abroad.
Feel ready to start making an impact? Find out more about GVI’s volunteering programs and internships abroad, and choose from community development, conservation, or women’s empowerment projects worldwide.