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Last January I packed up my bags and left my home in California to study abroad in Milan, Italy. For four months I studied in Milan during the week and traveled to 11 different countries on the weekends. My time studying abroad was an incredible learning experience. At the time I didn’t realize the extent of which my experiences abroad would help me in my career.
While there are countless reasons I’d recommend studying abroad to any college student, here are seven ways that studying abroad will prepare you for an internship:
You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone.
I felt like a fish out of water when I first moved to Milan. Over time I learned that it was okay to live outside my comfort zone. If I had stayed where I was comfortable, I would’ve passed up on the best four months of my life. Whether you’re afraid of moving to a foreign country – or interviewing for a new job – don’t let your fears hold you back.
You’ll learn to keep an open mind.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is tasting each country’s cuisine. A delicacy that I wasn’t thrilled about trying was escargot. Despite the fact that I loathe slimy snails, I tried the classic French dish and loved it! This experience taught me that some of the best experiences in life are the most unexpected. For this reason, I make an effort to keep an open mind at work. I listen to the ideas of my co-workers and I am always willing to try something new.
You’ll develop more effective communication skills.
One of the most difficult challenges I faced abroad was learning to overcome the language barrier. I learned that if I first made an effort to speak the native language and then ask for help in English, the locals were much more willing to assist me. This experience taught me that not everyone communicates the same way – and that’s okay. If a coworker and I are experiencing miscommunication, I try to communicate with them in a way they can understand.
You’ll improve your time management skills.
Traveling to eleven different countries in four months requires a great deal of planning. I learned that the key to time management is staying organized. School, work, and my personal life are much easier to balance with my newfound organization and time management skills.
You’ll learn to be flexible.
Not everything went exactly as planned while I was studying abroad. Some days flights were delayed or the weather wasn’t as nice as I had hoped. Incidents like these taught me to be flexible and go with the flow. Sometimes at work my ideas are rejected or a project doesn’t go as planned. Instead of getting frustrated, I’ve learned to be okay with plan B.
You’ll be re-inspired to learn.
Prior to moving to Milan I was worn out and tired of school. I was re-inspired to learn after visiting famous art museums and historical monuments. My new passion for learning has made me much more engaged at work.
You’ll gain more self-confidence.
At the end of my four months in Europe I was no longer afraid of everything that made me almost bolt off of the plane back in January. My new self-confidence has translated into my professional life in a number of ways. I have improved my interviewing skills, I am not afraid to voice my ideas at work, and I view my setbacks as learning experiences rather than failures.
About the author: Alissa is a senior at San Diego State University. She is studying to get her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. She is currently interning for eREACH, a marketing consulting firm, in downtown San Diego.