As we get closer to the year 2020, it becomes readily apparent that the world has been changing faster and faster this century. It is becoming more integrated and more international with every waking moment.
To go with this international world, a more international workforce will be necessary. Applicants with a healthy amount of cross-cultural experiences will be invaluable to most employers; in some fields, such experiences may even be prerequisites!
The benefits of cross-cultural experience are many. The first thing that most people will think of is learning a new language. Spending a year or two abroad (paired with personal study and hard work of course) can help you master even the most difficult languages for English learners like Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, and others. Language aren't just valuable for communication though. Study after study shows that different languages encourage different ways of thinking. For all intents and purposes, learning a new languages is like learning a full new way of viewing the world. Languages, while undoubtedly valuable, just scratch the surface of what working abroad can help teach you.
Cross-cultural competencies help workers to be open-minded and enhance creativity. Cultures everywhere think about problems in different ways. This is crucial for the modern working world, where problems are multi-faceted and have many possible solutions. Industries from tech and engineering to marketing and management require complicated solutions to some of the worlds biggest problems, and out of the box solutions are easier to find when one has been immersed in more than one culture.
Workers with experience overseas or in a different society also are highly adaptable and flexible. It takes a lot of skill and persistence to learn how to live daily life halfway across the world. Working abroad can both demonstrate your competencies to future employers, and help you become a more talented worker in the future.
Finally, working abroad aids in soft skills related to listening and synthesizing information. In order to adapt to a new environment, you must constantly be open to criticism, new ideas, and thinking about what you may be doing wrong. As a result, it is great practice for listening intently and gathering and categorizing relevant information.
About the Author: Fletcher Calcagno
Fletcher Calcagno is an undergraduate at George Washington University where he is pursuing his degree in international relations and philosophy. In his free time he enjoys debating world affairs at GW's Parliamentary Debate Society.