“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
You might recall passing by a booth during Imagine Day or Clubs Week and hearing people ask you, “Hey, do you want to go on exchange?”
Sure, you do. It’s always been a possibility, buried in the back of your mind, a maybe for when things are going great and you find that you have a space in your life big enough to fit an internship abroad. “Maybe sometime in the future,” you might say. But you’ll find your university years will pass by faster than you think, and before you know it, you’ll have graduated.
When students think about life after graduation, they think about the horror stories of unemployment. Will your degree land you a stable job? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. A important factor, however, will be the experience you have when you approach employers. What skills do you have that make you stand out from everyone else?
Working or volunteering abroad provides you with skills that aren’t provided in the classroom. You develop communication skills through working with different types of people, as well as a greater understanding of different cultures and how varied opinions and practices can contribute to the workplace. You learn to adapt to unfamiliarity: feeling out-of-place is often scary, but facing that hurdle head-on allows you to grow accustomed to it and pushes you to take risks. And of course, you gain practical experience in your field of interest in an environment that challenges you beyond what staying close to home would. All these things are invaluable and unique to the international internship experience.
One of the irreplaceable experiences from going abroad is meeting new people. By the end of your internship, you’ll have built a vast network of connections: friends you overcame challenges with, professionals you worked with and learned from, people who fall into both these categories, and more. You’ll meet other interns, each hailing from some different country around the globe, and swap stories about home. You’ll meet locals, stumble over phrases in a language unfamiliar to you, and eventually learn.
The university years are undeniably hectic and difficult, but they can also be a little bit incredible if you step out and take on an opportunity that both scares and excites you. One day down the road, you’ll look back and wonder: was that exchange experience worth all the trouble?
Yes. Yes, it absolutely was.