The past few days have been more hectic than usual as I’m transitioning into a new job. Which of course means I’m introducing myself and having the “why are you in Chile, lost little gringa?” conversation with everyone I meet. As you may know, my story starts with a study abroad adventure back in 2005.
That worked out pretty well for me, considering I got a husband out of the deal, not to mention a dog and and all around good life. Score one for studying abroad!
I realize, however, that my situation may be atypical (although you wouldn’t know it to talk to many of the gringos here in Chile). A more average experience tends to focus on language skills and travel opportunities, both of which are of course solid, valuable reasons to spend some time studying in another country. But those aren’t the only things you learn when you ship off to the other side of the world.
Much like being an expat, studying abroad gets you good at making mistakes. And that’s a great skill to have! There’s nothing like becoming comfortable having no clue how to express yourself, saying the wrong thing when you DO manage to get a word out and getting lost every time you leave the house. Because once you’re ok with all of that, you can handle a little thing like a job interview or a meeting with new colleagues in an industry you know absolutely nothing about without breaking a sweat. Not that I have done either of those recently, of course.
Plus, let’s not forget that what felt at the time like hanging out at the local bar and traipsing around a new city can be repackaged on your resume. We call these skills “cultural awareness” and “international experience.” It’s not all good self- marketing though. It really does come in handy to realize that people around the world handle social and business situations differently. Even if you don’t know a particular culture’s customs, hopefully your time abroad will have taught you how to hang back and watch the locals for cues.
And por supuesto, if you are studying in a country where they speak a different language, then the language side of things is key. So for the love of god, please take advantage of the chance to learn rather than hiding in an expat bubble! It may be the most obvious of study abroad advantages, but it’s one that bears repeating. Because all that traveling and visiting of local bars felt cooler once I started doing it en español.
This post brought to you by Kaplan International Colleges.