As someone who teaches Global History and International Human Rights, I am always encouraging my students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities as part of their university education. Oftentimes, I get asked about the specific benefits of studying aboard, especially for graduate students. This is my elevator pitch for the skeptical grad student.
Expanding the horizons of academic experience. Studying abroad allows you to see the world from a whole different perspective. This ultimately enriches your learning experience. You get the chance to encounter other cultures and explore new ways of learning, problem solving and understanding the world. For graduate students working on research projects relating to other countries, there may be a requirement for field research trips to those countries. But for many graduate students, study abroad programs are the best way to gain international experience. Even if traveling abroad isn’t part of your academic program, there are still benefits to studying in another country. You make lifelong friendships and gain experiences that you will find useful beyond your time at the University.
Preparing for an increasingly global workplace. In a globalizing world, new graduates end up seeking employment opportunities around the world. Employers such as multinational corporations are constantly looking for employees with international experience to enhance their global business. The emerging economies of Asia, Latin America and Africa provide new opportunities for employment with Canadian and American companies. Study abroad experiences position you to take advantage of these international employment opportunities. Take the Canadian phone company Blackberry for example. While Blackberry’s sales may have slowed in North America, it continues to grow in Asia and Africa. Future employment opportunities with companies like Blackberry lie overseas and studying abroad is a great way to prepare for the emerging global workplace.
Serving a diverse and multicultural society. Canada is a cultural mosaic, a land of many peoples and cultures. We value and celebrate our diversity. Each year, Canada welcomes thousands of new immigrants from all over the world. The culture and traditions these immigrant bring with them become part of the Canadian cultural mosaic. As graduate students, the workplaces that you will transition into upon graduation will be multiethnic and multicultural. Studying abroad provides you with opportunities to experience firsthand the various cultures that make up the Canadian mosaic. A medical student who has studied abroad in a particular country is better positioned as a physician to provide medical services to new immigrants from that country. The same is true of any other service profession. Familiarity with their languages and cultures of your clients and patrons helps to build trust and relationships. When students are exposed to other societies and cultures, they will be better able to serve a diverse and multicultural Canadian population.
So there you have it; my study abroad elevator pitch. There are indeed many benefits of studying abroad which are not limited to expanding your academic horizons. Study abroad also prepares you for a global workplace and positions you to better contribute to strengthening a multicultural Canadian society, and you can start preparing for international experiences by completing the Intercultural Competency module here on MyGradSkills.ca