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Why you should consider gaining experience abroad

With technology bringing new forms of connectivity between us, it’s time to consider gaining overseas experience as a great career move.

With technology bringing new forms of connectivity between us, it’s time to consider gaining overseas experience as a great career move.

Cesar, an alumnus of Australia’s prestigious College of Fine Arts (COFA) had the chance in 2006 to head to Weimar, Germany to gain further artistic insight from the Bauhaus University.

“I’m reaping the benefits of now having many couches to sleep on around Europe,” he says of his eight-month experience. “I made so many connections. I studied with all kinds of Europeans and was in touch with many cultures.”

Maree couldn’t agree more. Several years back she had the chance to undertake courses at the Yad Vashem in Israel, along with a stint in South Africa’s Johannesburg where she gained experience at the Human Rights Commission.

“It was a wonderful exchange of minds and cultural perspectives,” she says.

The globe-trotting duo aren’t the only ones. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, education is the Australia’s third largest export industry. Education exports have in fact risen a steady 15 per cent per annum over the last ten years. The lure of crossing borders to seek education has been popular among the X and Y generations and continues to be popular among those succeeding them.

Languages, experiences, career moves

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While learning languages and cultural experiences rate high on the list of reasons to study abroad, a study conducted by the University of Illinois claims that the two top reasons for international experiences are to reignite a thirst for furthering one’s study and enhancing one’s chances for job success.

“More and more employers are seeking out culturally aware and experienced employees who can work effectively in an increasingly global workplace,” says Amy MacMillan, editor at IES Abroad.

To many, studying abroad also teaches one to be independent, motivated and goal-orientated.

“The independence I gained from my experiences is something that helps me even today,” says Dipta of his academic experiences in both the Netherlands and France. “It’s a valuable life lesson that will help you cope down the track.”

“While I thought Oz taught me everything about studying in a multicultural environment, studying and living in a small campus with 120 Europeans pushed it to a new level,” says Tom, who recently finished his masters at the College of Europe in Natolin, Poland. “Most of all I rediscovered the merits of deadlines, of self-motivation and stress-coping skills.”

The biggest asset one gains from studying abroad, however, is the connections made.

“I developed an ongoing network of similar-minded people and have had many opportunities arising from my experiences,” says Maree.

Too late?

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For those feel that they’ve missed the boat on studying abroad, Ash Jurberg from Alliance Abroad (a cultural exchange and work abroad program) advises that there is the potential to gain work experience or an internship overseas.

“To receive a highly motivated and enthusiastic staff member who can add value to a business for minimum investment represents great value for a business,” she says.

Intern Abroad

Alliance Abroad programs send over 15 000 candidates overseas, mainly from the events, marketing or international business sectors, with programs focused in the United States and Canada.

A candidate, Amy decided to gain work experience in the United States.

“It landed me a job in communications,” she says. “I was soon able to move back into a company that had strong ties with the US.”

All in all, whether considering exchange during one’s degree or work experience post-study, all questioned agree that gaining international experience was one of the best decisions they’ve made.

Did you study/gain work experience overseas? If so, where?