Studying abroad is a super exciting experience in every student’s academic life, for a lot of different reasons: you get your first taste of proper independence, you are discovering a brand new place, you’re experiencing things you never would have back home, and you’re studying at the same time! It’s a lot to take on at once, but you’ll pick up a lot of different skills without even noticing. Let’s talk about the skills you learn while studying abroad.
Obviously, the major skill to be learned and perfected, when you’re on your year abroad, is the new language you’re exposed to. This is the perfect example of studying and learning a skill at the same time – for you, these things will happen simultaneously.
When you’re immersed in a different culture this way, you pick up the local language as a survival skill. Sure, you’ll be rusty in the beginning, but the more you speak and write in that language, the better you will get, until you’ll be able to achieve proficiency.
Of course, it depends on how much time you spend there and what your social interactions are like, but if you’re by yourself in a strange land, you’ve got no choice but to get social, so you’ll be forced to practice. Uncomfortable in the moment, but really handy in the long-run!
How this is going to help you: Learning language skills not only helps your brain develop (as well as your creativity skills) , but it can also help you professionally; you never know when you can land a major job with a foreign client, work in diplomacy, etc.
Moving to a new place, abroad or not, means that you need to fend for yourself and find your way around your new (temporary) home. There’s going to be a lot of walking, searching, and exploring in your future, especially in the first few weeks or months. Before you know it, you’ll get really good at navigating unknown places and reading maps expertly.
This is another one of those skills that’s required and practiced without even knowing, because you rely on it day to day for the most basic of tasks. It’s all about knowing how to read clues, understanding layout, and knowing when to give up and start asking kind strangers for directions.
How this is going to help you: If you’re spatially challenged or just a bit oblivious of your surroundings, there is no better way to learn than being faced with the reality of finding your own way. Learn how to read a map and fend for yourself and you’ll never get lost or need to stop and ask strangers for directions again.
You’re going to rely very heavily on communication with your new peers, teachers, roommates, and other people you’ll come in contact with. You never realize how much we rely on other people until you find yourself alone somewhere. Suddenly, you’ve got to interact with a bunch of new people to get anything done, from sorting out accommodation to getting admin stuff in order at school to basic socialization when you’re going out. Even your daily grocery shopping trips are exercises in communication, language, and negotiation.
Studying itself might require a lot of communication, so you’ll be refining those skills every day. You’ll need to ask for clarification from your professors, ask for tips from your classmates, maybe participate in some study groups or group projects, hold some presentations, etc.
How this is going to help you: Shy or otherwise socially anxious individuals will benefit the most from this type of experience, because this forces you to become a confident and effective communicator. It’s an exceptional exercise in learning how to express things clearly and concisely.
Money management skills
Money management is a big one when you’re on your own and trying to be self-sufficient. The money is never enough, everything is expensive, and stretching your dollars becomes more and more difficult, so budgeting and managing your money almost becomes an art form. That’s why it’s important to find a way to earn an income.
Finding work as a student is hard enough, especially in a foreign country, especially if you don’t speak the language that well. That’s why freelance and remote work is ideal for students who are spending some time abroad – it’s flexible work that allows you to take hours whenever you can or want, including during evenings and weekends, it gives you the liberty to choose your clients and projects, and most importantly of all, it offers you the ability to work from anywhere.
From there, it’s all up to you – how much you work, how much you earn, and how you pinch your pennies and maximize their potential.
How this is going to help you: You’ll always be able to use budgeting skills! No matter how financially stable you become, the secret to that ongoing stability is to have excellent money management skills.
Does this one even need an explanation? When you’re in a foreign environment like this, you need to be super adaptable, expect the unexpected, and be prepared to land on your feet, regardless of the situation that arises. It’s completely necessary to this new way of life you are getting accustomed to.
You’ll have to adapt to a different language, to a new culture, new customs, and some new habits that you’ll have to develop, whether that’s living with strangers, asking for help, making an effort to be more social as a born loner, etc. Not to mention that life can throw all sorts of things at you that you need to be able to handle with dignity.
How this is going to help you: The more rigid you are in your habits or beliefs, the more difficult it’s going to be to take advantage of opportunities and enjoy life properly. Learning how to adapt with minimal grumbling and disruption can be the key to set you free in every aspect of your life.
Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience for a young person, not only because you have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to benefit from the best education possible, but because it’s a wonderful opportunity to gain some other essential life skills. Every aspect of your experience is going to teach you something valuable, whether that’s language skills, adaptability, communication skills, or money management. These are skills that you’ll rely on during your time abroad, but that will also come in handy once you’re back home and ready to begin your professional life.