Many employers are asking for exactly this. In an interconnected world where global business transactions are the norm it matters that you are equipped to play your part. So what do you need to do to develop this outlook and how do you demonstrate it?
“Travel broadens the mind” is both a platitude and a truism. Visiting other countries and learning about the culture is important. It’s worth thinking about the extent to which your travel allows you to witness and experience the culture. The wild party holiday might be great fun, but probably doesn’t allow you to engage much with local culture! You learn best about the culture when you take the opportunity to talk to local people. What’s their take on the political system in their country? Will they actually discuss this with you? Quite possibly not, particularly if they do not live in a democracy which allows its citizens full freedom of speech. You learn from what people do not say, as well as from what they share! Observe how things work too, what’s public transport like? Is it widely used by all sections of society, is it cheap, reliable? What jobs exist in the local economy? Are there wide divisions between the wealthy and the have-nots? How does this impact the way people behave? Most holiday travel will give you the chance to learn something useful about local culture.
We all understand that we need to recognise difference and diversity and Warwick’s campus is excitingly multicultural and hugely diverse, but when we travel we experience other cultures in a new way and learn to navigate behavioural mores. By way of example, think about the different ways in which people greet one another. It ranges from bowing in Japan through to kissing in parts of Europe. How do we address each other? In some countries a formal title is always used, in others it’s ok to use first names. Getting a greeting right can make the difference to the atmosphere in a meeting. Travel can give you a richer understanding of what’s expected and can help us to react in an appropriate and respectful way to others.
I’ve just been to an international university conference in Dresden where participants discussed internationalism in their institutions. (The blog is a great opportunity to showcase some of my photos!) One speaker asked us to reflect on the first time we travelled alone, to an unknown destination to meet people we did not know. For me, that would have been travelling to Germany, for a three week language exchange stay, with people I hadn’t met, at the age of 15. It was a long time ago and coming out to Germany alone last week (different German City!) and knowing nobody in advance held no fears for me. I know I’m not going to be phased if the travel goes wrong and that I have the interpersonal skills to strike up conversations with people. Maybe some of my confidence stems from that first experience?
I guess also that the self-reliance and confidence inculcated by the adventure served me really well in the early days of my career. When you first start work you’ll be pitched outside of your comfort zone, whether you’re at home or away, and you need to find the inner resources to cope.
Students who take the opportunity to do some or all of their studies abroad will have no difficulty in recalling the trepidation they felt before embarking on the adventure. I suggest you make some notes about the experience and how you managed it and what you learnt from it. Those notes will help you phrase answers to application questions and may give you a greater confidence in facing new experiences . Take some time to ponder how you changed as a result of your experience. If you haven’t been away yet and are now making lost minute plans for the year abroad or the summer holiday adventure spend a bit of time thinking about how you might get the very best out of the experience. Throwing yourself into all that is on offer will allow you to maximise the benefits of the experience. Spending a lot of time sitting alone in your room will be less useful!
The more you “go for it” the more you’ll develop your international outlook. Have fun!