Spending a short-term stint or full semester studying overseas in a new place is a scary and exciting prospect, but the personal and professional benefits make the experience more than worth it. A study from the International Institute of Education (IIE) says that studying abroad has a higher impact on job offers and career advancement. So, if you’re considering going on exchange next year or at some point during your degree, here are some reasons why you should go for it.
International exchange can inspire you to learn a new language and develop your communication skills
With advances in technology in business, we are closing in on geographic boundaries. Having a second language under your belt increases your international communication skills, which more and more employers look for. What better excuse to start picking up a new language than on an overseas exchange
Joining a new community means you can make new friends and live like a local
Spending a longer amount of time overseas focusing on work placement or study means you’ll have a long time to really soak up a city and experience life as a local. Arts/Psychology student Leonie Nahhas is no stranger to the exchange experience, having spent two semesters at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, and completed four internships in various organisations across Southeast Asia (two of which were PACE International units).
“Singapore culture is very reserved, but I kept pushing through and eventually local friends warmed up to me. By the end, it felt like I had a family network over there,” she says. “On Fridays, we would often go to the hawker markets and just spend hours eating and drinking sugar cane juice and hanging out, which was really nice.”
On exchange, you can be a tourist and travel even further afield
An obvious perk of setting up a temporary home somewhere new is the opportunity to be a tourist, both around your new home city and regionally. “I found I was busy with study but still had chances to explore,” says Leonie. “When the recess break came my family would come to visit or I would go to places like Malaysia and Cambodia. These countries are really close and the flights are cheap. Travel is about evolving as a person and having your worldview expand – you become a more informed global citizen.”
Studying abroad opens up new educational opportunities
The benefit of studying at a different university is that you may be able to study subjects not offered here at Macquarie. Says Leonie: “I actually did a Positive Psychology unit over in Singapore, which isn’t offered at Macquarie, and that totally opened the door for me to explore that area. I found that I was really interested in that.”
Living in another country encourages you to build essential life skills
There’s nothing quite like the challenge of learning how to be independent when you’re setting up a temporary home-away-from-home. If you’ve locked in exchange already, or are thinking about it, get in contact with alumni or students who have completed their exchange experience in the same place so you can get their tips to help you settle in quicker.
Leonie on a weekend trip to the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia.
Leonie says it’s also important to accept that not everything is going to be smooth-sailing, but that’s all part of the learning experience. “I became more independent in my thinking and more optimistic,” she says.“When things went wrong, I learned to remember that it’s only temporary and that I can find solutions to make things better.”
Exchange can expand your professional network
Being in a new destination for a semester means you’ll have the chance to make new friends from around the world and have time to get some work experience at a local company, which looks great on your CV. Those connections will also come in handy when you graduate. “I definitely made good contacts that I could easily approach now and ask for advice,” says Leonie.
“After graduation, I want to work in global youth development. I am actually looking at joining Humanitarian Affairs Asia, which is partnered with the United Nations Development Programme, so I will be working on conferences and hopefully will be doing the internship in Bangkok.”
Considering a study abroad experience? Macquarie University offers exchange opportunities at more than 200 partner universities across 50 countries. You can check out the full range of opportunities here and get in touch with Macquarie International at email@example.com.