Do It While You’re Young

Though it’s cliche, there really are some things you just can’t learn in a classroom. You can read about it, tweet about it, and even blog about it, but you’ll never truly grasp a concept such as globalization until you’ve traveled abroad. Globalization, you say? That’s a buzzword these days – in fact, it may even appear in the vocabulary section of the new and improved SAT. But just how important is it to understand such a concept? In The Globalization of Education and Sustainability Management Steven Cohen of The Huffington Post illustrates the phenomenon as,

“While there will always be military and security secrets, the rest of the global economy is just that: global. Products are made via supply chains that stretch across many borders, and all localities-within and between borders-compete with each other for business and talent.”

You just finished your sophomore year in college. This is a critical time to land an internship, and you’ve passed out your resume like a politician passes out flyers. Sadly, you’re not getting any responses. But hope is not lost! How would you feel if I told you there was something that, arguably, is better for your resume than an internship? It’s studying abroad, and most colleges offer a wide array of programs. Studying abroad will do more than just give you better stories than your friends, it may just get you your dream job.


Here’s a short script of a fictional group interview. Tell me which candidate got the job.

Interviewer:  “As you know, ‘So-And-So Inc.’ is a global business. Please give your definition of globalization in a few sentences.”

Candidate One: “Integration on an international scale as the nations of the world interchange their products and ideas.”

Candidate Two: “While studying international Logistics in Brussels, Belgium, my team assisted a leading French business consultant in the procurment of materials from a small company in Sweden. The materials were heading to a contractor in Brazil to begin work on the company’s new development site. That’s globalization to me.”

I don’t think I need to tell you who wins.

If studying abroad is so important to a modern education, than how come so few American students are doing it? In More Students Need to Study Abroad, Says Higher Ed Group, the numbers are listed as 800,000 international in the U.S. compared to 283,00 Americans studying abroad. The difference is staggering. The article goes on to explain this lack as an area of justified concern,

 “It is clear that major segments of America’s young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues,”

It’s not a lack of programs causing the imbalance. In fact, most public and private universities offer some form of study abroad – here’s a list of the 25 best colleges for study abroad. I’m proud to have gone to Michigan State, where the number of students who travel abroad is second only to NYU. I took full advantage of my school’s strong programs. My sophomore year I studied in Japan, then Europe the following Summer. I always felt that those two trips put me at a unique advantage. Not only did I become a more experienced traveler, but I learned how to efficiently work in a group in often hectic and unfamiliar situations.

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Studying abroad isn’t cheap, which is why many students don’t even bother looking into them. But I urge every college student to at least consider. More often than not, scholarships, loans, and sponsorships exist for students willing to put in the effort to earn them. See it as an investment. You may have to take out extra loans now, but it will help you land that dream job when you graduate. A marketing professor I admire once told me about a survey he administered. He asked a number of prestigious companies to list what they look for in a potential employee from most important to least important. Let me guess, you probably expect GPA to be at the top. Not the case. In fact, many companies put GPA near the middle. More surprisingly, study abroad ranked near the top on almost every company’s list.

Why would a company prefer a student with a 3.5 GPA over one with a 3.9? Because the 3.5 student studied abroad and learned team-working skills that cannot be taught in class. Sure, you can always travel abroad when you’re older. Perhaps your job will even require it. But it won’t be the same as traveling while you’re young. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun.

“People identify with lifestyle categories as much as they do with geographic place, ethnicity or race. These multiple layers of identity are part modern life and a reason that studying abroad and hosting foreign students is such an essential element of contemporary education.”

Need more persuasion, Orange County? Check out these links:

10 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad

Why Study Abroad

34 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad in Paris (who doesn’t like Paris?)

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