A small world for big discoveries
Whether it is for one semester or a year or two, the skills gained from studying abroad for a Master’s degree will turn you into a master of your field. To the academic knowledge will be added the much-valued international exposure and multicultural awareness that will enrich your soft skills. Immersing yourself in diverse cultures brings a myriad of additional benefits. It may be clichéd to say so but this has never been as prized as it is in today’s fast-paced, dynamic world.
“Businesses are increasingly operating across international boundaries, which means it is important that employees are sensitive to other cultures, languages, and political and religious beliefs. Employees with strong cultural intelligence and who can adapt to others who might perceive the world differently are also key in developing more inclusive products and services for an organisation,” highlights Bernard Marr for Forbes.
Career coach David J. Smith told the same publication: “Navigating cultural idiosyncrasies can provide new perspectives and tear down preconceived notions of how others live. All travel provides valuable opportunities, though I would argue that foreign travel provides the best learning.” Combine travel with university study and you will enjoy a highly stimulating environment in which to grow, mature and build the skills for a successful career.
Gain an international perspective
Immersion in the environment of an international university is a great opportunity to gain an appreciation of the diversity of perspectives. Some graduate schools are really replicating the world by hosting students from dozens of countries and different continents. Mingle actively beyond your class or cohort and you will find yourself interacting with peers, professors and university officers with unique backgrounds and experiences.
When you study abroad, it can also be exciting to join in with the traditions of the country. Students are able to see, feel, and understand how locals live and how the local lifestyle differs from or resembles their own. The good news is that this process takes place not only at university but also during internship placements or volunteer work. Here is what Lydia Carr, a Health Management student at Howard University (US), who was born in Taiwan and grew up in Japan and Jamaica, shares about her internship experience in the UK:
“Through my service-learning placement, I had a glimpse into the daily lives of different people: hospital patients, mental health patients, and even my co-workers. […] I was able to better understand the health system of the UK, the different structural hierarchies, and how each organisation plays into the overall health system.”
One of the most obvious advantages of spending some time abroad is learning the local language or brushing up on your foreign language speaking skills. For most people, there is no better way to get used to all the new words and sounds than to jump right into the conversation on a local level. Much more importantly, international Master’s studies and exchange programmes develop the communication skills of students in a broader manner.
What is the most convincing way to explain your thoughts in an academic or professional setting? How can you negotiate and take part in important decision-making moments that concern your future? How do you switch between different types of communication depending on the place and the audience?
These questions might seem pointless at first – after all, talking is easy! Of course, good communication is about much more than talking. Interacting with students and professors from all over the world, getting used to local traits, and learning to take care of life outside the classroom will transform your communication skills for the better. If you also throw learning the local language into the mix, you will take your communication training to the next level. Conveying clear ideas and giving others the attention and support they deserve are guaranteed to be appreciated wherever you go.
Collaboration is one of the top soft skills appreciated by employers, but it is clearly a skill that adds value to all aspects of everyday life.
“Soft skills facilitate collaboration in the workplace. There is scientific research that shows companies that focus their hiring criteria on soft skills will end up with higher levels of production over those that emphasise only on hard skills in their hiring practices.” highlights Jenifer Lambert in a LinkedIn research into the top soft skills for 2021.
The ability to work independently and to generally feel comfortable on your own is invaluable. However, next to polishing your multicultural understanding and communication skills, postgraduate studies abroad will do wonders for your patience and collaborative strength during teamwork. Good task delegation and self-responsibility are among the many positive side effects of attending university in a foreign country. Schools know this too.
“Modern language teaching includes lots and lots of group and small group activities. Working on a task in a new language with people who do not share your mother tongue is a truly challenging and rewarding way to improve your teamwork skills. You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to work together,” explains the blog of study abroad provider ESL.
Ultimately, after graduation and once you are headed to the job market, you will have to apply the same teamwork strategies in order to be successful at what you do.
Although students usually gain more than they expect during their studies abroad, these three interpersonal qualities will be a strong starting point for your future career and life after university. Now it is your turn to learn how to apply them in context.