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Study Abroad, Experiential Learning, and Skills Development – Creating the Global Mindset That Will Take You Far

On Study Abroad Day 2023, we recognize the importance of intercultural exchange more than ever. As the first private institution facilitating international exchanges, IIE’s mission and vision is firmly entrenched in the support and continuation of study abroad initiatives. Study abroad benefits not only the individual, but also governments, local communities, and employers. In fact, the skills that individuals learn align with key abilities that employers emphasize as preferences in job descriptions and in attributes of leaders. This is increasingly important as we enter an expanding globally networked world that needs flexible mindsets with the ability to operate in cross-cultural environments.

Study abroad, experiential learning, and career skills development are linked. Study abroad programs naturally provide opportunities for experiential learning, a concept and process that is often replicated in the workplace. Experiential learning is the concept of learning though experiences. It involves a hands-on approach to learning that oftentimes happens organically because of circumstance and environment. Experiential learning occurs when learners actively participate and interact with their surroundings. This same type of learning is replicated when students enter the workforce and a student’s prior exposure to a breadth of experiences during study abroad makes this transition much smoother.

For many individuals, the opportunity to study abroad is life-changing and provides exposure to different cultures, languages, communities, and ways of life. Students are living in a foreign country in an immersive environment while studying at another institution. It allows students to gain education in their respective areas of study while at the same time attaining an expanded cultural perspective. The challenge of living in a different country and needing to adapt to different cultural norms impacts the learner’s thought process and expands their worldview. This worldview is then applied as they transition into the workplace and interact with colleagues of different backgrounds and cultures.

The benefits of study abroad are many and varied. [i]Eckert et al. (2013) note that studying abroad, in addition to developing cultural awareness, fostering personal and intellectual growth, and understanding global issues, may also help students recognize their potential biases and ethnocentrism.

With the concepts of belonging and inclusion being so important to employers, individuals that value diversity and intercultural learning bring fresh and welcome perspectives and value-added skill sets. Job descriptions increasingly reflect a desire for people skillful in cross-culture learning, inclusive mindset, willingness to try new things, and more.

Let’s continue to embrace study abroad, not only for the myriad of personal experience and growth, but also for the long-lasting skills and development that ultimately supports future career success.

[i] Eckert, J., Luqmani, M., Newell, S., Quraeshi, Z., and Wagner, B. (2013). Developing short-term study abroad programs: Achieving successful international student experiences. American Journal of Business Education, V. 6, No. 4, pp 439-458

Additional IIE Resources:

Study Abroad Matters: Linking Higher Education to the Contemporary Workforce through International Experience

Gaining an Employment Edge – The Impact of Study Abroad

Study Abroad Matters, the YouTube Series