I feel some things are just rightly assumed about the long-run advantages of doing a year abroad – yes you become more cultured, yes you’ll gain confidence, yes you’ll view life differently, yes there’s new opportunities… but what actually are some examples of these?
A (by no means exhaustive) post on how my year abroad impacted my life.
Where do I see myself living?
Being from Essex I’d only considered careers based in and around London realistically (maybe Manchester but who doesn’t consider that). My year abroad has made me rethink my career path a little though, I’m likely to now apply for some grad schemes stateside, and due to visa sponsorship costs I highly doubt I’ll get any offers but it’s opened my mind a little. I know that if I’m offered an international relocation opportunity within a job then I’d probably seize it.
Making the most of your time
It is impossible to do everything you want to on a year abroad and even harder to go everywhere you want (NYC and DC remained unvisited for me) but you certainly try and make the most of your time on exchange. In the end I had to split my days almost into 4 parts to fit in all the plans we made in the last few months – it really is non stop fun if you want it to be. At the same time though, this has made me realise I also want to make the most of my free time back home – especially going into my final year in Manchester. Those weekend Peaks trips? Get on it. Fancy seeing an art gallery – go after uni one day.
Life is too short to sit around in dressing gowns eating leftover Allens with Peep Show on in the background every other morning (although sometimes I agree it’s all I can manage) – my experiences at ASU have taught me to (in the famous words of Nike or Shia LeBeouf) just do it.
Internship for credit
For my second semester, I did an unpaid internship for the whole term at an organisation called SolarSPELL. This experience was truly eye-opening and something you’d never get to do with most degrees in the UK. Please read my LinkedIn post linked here (Benjamin Spencer LinkedIn Post on SolarSPELL) about this experience.
Friends for life, but I mean it
When you’re 5000+ miles from home, the idea that your friends become your family really does ring true. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried and I’ve had a down-right good time with so many new friends from so many different backgrounds. I mainly was friends with other exchange/international students (which I feel naturally happens on a year abroad as you’re in the same boat) who hailed from the far corners of the globe – not just England or the US and the usual suspects like Spain, Denmark, Italy, Holland, France and Hungary but also Canada, Argentina, Korea, Bolivia, Saudi Arabia, Colombia…. (there’s so many more but this isn’t an atlas).
Some of these friends I know are for life, also you get a lot of free holiday destinations when you consider how many new places you can stay!
You stand out, for the right reasons
I’ve already reaped some successes employment-wise partially thanks to my exchange. Whilst still at ASU I applied for a host of summer internships (you do find yourself with a fair bit more free time than usual compared to UoM) back in the UK. I’d like to think that having a study abroad programme on your CV and being able to relate it to the position you’re applying for through your cover letter put me in a better position. Ultimately, I did receive a job offer for a finance position in the city this summer and during my interview process (which I had to get up at 4am for due to time zone differences!) my experiences at ASU were spoken about a lot and also served as a natural start to the conversation.
I also feel within my working life already, the social skills both required and developed on the year abroad have helped me to succeed. Making genuine organic conversation when meeting with colleagues, brokers and clients comes more naturally now – I ask more engaging questions to learn about people (and let them talk about themselves, it’s what everyone loves doing really). As small as it is, it also gives you the opportunity to relate to anyone whose American or lived stateside (something I’ve found really useful working for an American company).
What matters in life?
Distance makes the heart grow fonder. I’d be lying if I said being thousands of miles away and 7/8 hour timezones behind is easy. It’s not and you do end up missing your family and friends a lot – especially pets because when you boil it down you only really interact with animals face to face (my dogs didn’t quite grasp the concept of FaceTime 😉). Ultimately it’s okay not to be okay sometimes, I’m a very outgoing individual with a positive mindset and I had some ‘wobbly’ days. If you’re able to build a strong network of close friends out there then it makes the tougher times that bit easier. Also it makes the reunions even all the more special (plus your parents really miss you so they treat you like a king (or queen) on your return!!).
Finally, it’s really fun – nuff said.