This post was written by CIEE Teach Abroad alum Bryn Rudy. Bryn studied abroad in Seville, Spain during her junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and returned to Spain to teach English after graduation.
12 Reasons Going Abroad Should be Your Next Step After College
Before I graduated, strangers, family, and friends told me to stay in school as long as possible, and everybody urged avoiding the “real world”. We’re raised dreading the 9 to 5 life, yet society also pushes on us the need to graduate high school, go to college, get a good job, get married, and have kids. They like to call it the “American Dream,” but I have a hard time believing that’s what everybody dreams of these days.
Yes, I’m your typical twenty-something constantly working to narrow my focus and delve into what gets me up in the morning, and while I didn’t go for a “victory lap” in college, I have been successful in avoiding the “real world.” While older generations may not agree, I appreciate that millennials put more importance on traveling and cultural awareness, and want an appropriate work-life balance. That’s not to say I don’t believe in hard work, but I think it’s okay to take a couple transitional years and work on figuring out you. I studied abroad my junior year in college, went back and taught English in Spain after I graduated, and recently just returned from working in New Zealand.
Having your life figured out by age 22 is pretty unrealistic, especially in today’s job market. I don’t think there is a perfect formula to life’s order or how to “find yourself”, but I think studying, teaching, and/or working abroad is a great place to start. All of my abroad experiences have better prepared me to enter the real world, and the skills I’ve gained make me stand out from the crowd and be confident in what exactly it is I’m looking for (which is why I want to help others travel abroad, too!). These are 12 reasons going abroad should be the next step after college:
1. Get out of your comfort zone
Kayaking on Milford Sound. Photo: Bryn Rudy
Obvious, but incredibly important. Taking risks and challenging yourself is the best way to grow and evolve.
2. Time away from family & friends
Just like society puts pressure on us to do certain things or behave a certain way, so might family and friends whether you realize it or not. It can be good to get away and really focus on you and what you want.
3. Learn new skills
Bryn with her class in Spain.
Traveling abroad builds character. You have to be patient, adapt to new situations, and learn how to live in an entirely different place. It also gives you a chance to hone skills you already possess.
4. Explore career options
Don’t know what to do with your life? Going abroad gives you time to think about what’s important to you and allows you to explore new options. It might even broaden your mind to a career path that might never have crossed your mind.
Bryn in Sydney, Australia.
Try something you haven’t before, and even if you don’t like it, at least you figured that out and probably learned some valuable skills along the way.
6. Cultural awareness & acceptance
We live in a diverse world, and learning to work with all types of people is key.
Just like we need to learn to interact with people from different backgrounds, it is imperative that we communicate effectively with coworkers, clients, and managers. Another great thing about abroad is learning to cope without your phone 24/7. Internet is not always available and reliable everywhere, so getting back to communicating face-to-face is something to appreciate.
8. “Emerging Adulthood” stage
In a human development class I took in college, my professor described emerging adulthood as a new developmental stage during the late teens/early twenties. Spending a part of this period abroad helps you to take those steps toward adulthood.
View from the Rocky Mountain Summit in Wanaka. Photo: Bryn Rudy
Whether you study, teach, or work abroad, employers will be impressed by your international experiences.
10. Build language skills
Bilingualism is an incredible skill to have, and spending time in a new country is the perfect way to become fluent in a new language.
11. Reflect on your priorities
In Spain, it’s common to live with your parents until you’re 30. In Australia, it’s the norm to take a gap year after college. What do you want? What’s important to you? Do you want to travel? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to become CEO of a company? Being far from home allows you to reflect on these ideas and set specific goals for yourself.
12. Less things tying you down
Another good reason to go abroad after college? You’re young. You have fewer responsibilities. If you plan on having a family, it’s not as easy to pick up and move halfway across the world with kids. You never know what the future holds, so if you have the chance to travel now, do it.