Post by Michele Friedmann, Former Graduate Intern
As an MA candidate for my International Education degree I could go on and on about the importance of international education in today’s world! Real world international experience, ability to work well with others from different backgrounds, future employment opportunities, increased confidence and skills living independently, a worldlier outlook on life and perhaps increased foreign language skills are to name just a few!
After studying abroad a record breaking three times at Gettysburg College, it is an understatement to say I’m a major fan of taking my education overseas. I probably spent as much time at the study abroad office as I did in some of my education courses, but it was well worth it. I can’t even keep record of the amount of times I’ve reflected on my experiences abroad and utilized those occurrences to write a paper, join a discussion in graduate school, tell a friend, or inspire another student to go abroad!
During graduate school I was asked to write a paper about the importance of incorporating cultural immersion and awareness within study abroad programs. An image of my homestay family in Japan quickly flashed through my mind. It was the most profound experience of my entire time circumnavigating the world on Semester at Sea, and one I almost bailed on. I had a group of friends that tried to convince me to party in Tokyo instead of hang around the ship and wait for my host family to arrive. Despite the part of me that wanted to take the easy path and join them, I just knew that living with a family in a foreign country was a once in a lifetime experience. As my family showed up with my name on a huge sign and smiles on their faces I knew I made the right choice! Despite the fact that they spoke minimal English, and I definitely did not know Japanese, I learned more about the Japanese culture, food, and way of life in those three short days than I ever would have partying in Tokyo. This experience, and the ways I grew from it, were tied into my senior honors thesis and incorporated into an essay that led to my acceptance into graduate school. My incredible and life changing experience also gave me the confidence and inspiration to sign up for future homestay opportunities.
There are numerous articles about how studying and interning abroad can help you land your dream job. Employers are looking for hard workers who display confidence, independence, worldliness and work well with others. It’s true, after going abroad your world opens up and you start learning about new cultures, people and places. You are able to successfully communicate and work with people from all over the world, which is such an essential skill in order to be successful in today’s international work place. Oftentimes, you may even acquire foreign language skills. All of these qualities and abilities transfer over to the workplace, and employers know it. They are quick to spot someone who has studied or interned abroad, and much more likely to hire that person. So when you go for that dream job, make sure you include your international experiences on your resume, discuss it during your interview when the opportunity arises, and watch employers be fascinated by the fact that you took the leap and studied or interned overseas!
In conclusion, my personal international experiences have guided me in my career, helped me make wonderful friends and connections from all over the world, and increased my confidence and skills in traveling. It definitely molded me into the person I am today. I know the prospect of going abroad is scary, but it is also very exciting and everything in between. Enjoy the entire process, good and bad, and realize that later on in life you WILL reflect on your study abroad experience and utilize those occurrences! So while having fun, traveling, making friends and keeping busy, make sure you take some time to reflect on your journey. You never know when you might use that particular experience to write an essay for graduate school, inspire other students to study abroad or land your dream job.