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The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

Through advancements in technology, the growth of the internet and social media, the world continues to become more connected. Ideas, and now even people, can travel quickly. And, many are taking the chance to gain valuable experience abroad

For students in particular, this reality holds potential for career development and personal growth. More students are seeking out international experience, in the form of volunteering, service-learning or internships. 

Unlike any other generations in history, millennials and gen Zs are spreading their wings. But, what does this mean? And, what kind of benefits does an international experience have on a student’s future?

 

Volunteer abroad for professional development.

Why gain international experience?

International experience through volunteering or interning, allows you to learn about cultures, ideas, values, beliefs and religions practised by people around the world. You’ll broaden your worldview, add to your personal development, and be part of a global community.

There are three main ways that international experience will contribute towards your future career, while also giving you the chance to add to projects with a sustainable, long-term impact.

 

Volunteer with other cultures for personal growth.

1) It encourages personal growth

An international volunteer or intern experience is sure to take your mind off of technology. While technology can be used as a tool to stay connected, it can also keep you in your comfort zone and allow you to retreat into social media. 

This could limit your real-life interactions and make it harder to gain important skills, such as appropriate social interaction and communication.

Your international experience can be beneficial to your growth if done through an organisation with international sustainable development projects. This is because it’ll allow you the opportunity to get to know yourself outside of your comfort zone and discover your strengths and weaknesses while making a positive impact.

 

International experience is a good way to develop personal growth.

2) It promotes professional development

The concept of professional development doesn’t only apply to your future workplace. You can get hands-on, practical forms of experience while you’re a student by doing volunteer work, international internships, an international service-learning program, or taking a gap year focused on personal or professional development.

Each of these options will give you soft skills that are ideal for any workplace. Soft skills include empathy, relating to others and being able to effectively communicate with them, which will tie into any work that you do.

You’ll also develop other important soft skills, like communication, flexibility, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork, adaptability and critical thinking.

 

Find your passion through international experience.

3) It can help you to find your passion 

Finding meaning in the work that you do is rooted in being passionate about your career choice. Participating in international experiences will help awaken your passions and give you opportunities to integrate them into your lifestyle.

Your experiences abroad could also help you to break down complex questions or situations into simpler compartments. 

Think of it like a stomach digesting food: You’ll get to  break down the different components of your life experiences (your thoughts, your personality, your hopes and dreams, and your external reality), and piece them back together in a meaningful way for your future.

Travelling abroad takes you out of the environment that you’re used to and opens you up to opportunities you might not have known existed. This will help you to expand on your career goals.

 

Volunteering on conservation projects abroad will improve your career development.

Participants in Jalova, Costa Rica learn how to use a GPS system.

 

The power and value of an international experience comes from how much you immerse yourself in it. The goal is to go beyond mere exposure to cultures, ideas and experiences, and attempt to understand them more deeply.

This will broaden your global perspective and contribute to you becoming a more well-rounded person. It’ll also make you a more attractive candidate for further education and employment.

The importance of international experience can’t be underestimated. So get inspired and go abroad!

Feel ready to venture out into the world? Find out more about GVI’s volunteering programs and internships abroad, and choose from community development, conservation, or women’s empowerment projects worldwide.