5 Reasons Why Living Abroad Can Benefit Your Professional Life

Living abroad can be one of the most challenging choices that you ever make. From the big things like language barriers and navigating new places to the little things like subtle cultural differences and those small, daily reminders that you’re a guest, living, working, or studying abroad is not for the faint of heart.

Often, we hear stories about people who live abroad and have the time of their lives while doing it. Of course, a lot can go wrong when abroad, but a lot can also go very right. Even after you’ve returned to your home country and the luggage is put away, the lessons you learned and the things you experienced while abroad can continue to impact your life in big ways, particularly in the professional arena. Here are five reasons why living abroad can be beneficial to your professional life long into the future.

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1. You already survived a big challenge

Everyone enters the doorways of their new job carrying their past experiences on their backs. Whether they’ve had great experiences or horrible, nightmarish jobs in the past, everyone is influenced by them and, in turn, uses that information to make present and future decisions.

Most of your co-workers may have job experience from other offices or companies, but imagine the benefits that you bring to the table by having survived living in a foreign country for any length of time. Living abroad is not the same as traveling abroad, so you’ve taken on a challenge – and successfully, by the way – that most of your peers may never fully understand. This sure puts into perspective some of the new challenges you’ll face at work.

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2. You made new connections

When you live abroad, you often have to make connections, and fast – particularly if you moved there solo and don’t have some of the comforts afforded when studying with a cohort or working through a program. You’ve already had to give up a lot of comforts, such as staying near family or surrounding yourself with existing friends. You already know about the anxieties that come with meeting new people, and you’ve conquered them. You’ve flexed your social muscles – and maybe even did it all in your non-native language – which means that you’re 10 steps ahead of many candidates out there.

You also have so many new connections with people around the world, which can translate to future job opportunities that you never imagined having beforehand.

3. You learned how to network and sell yourself

Here’s the crazy thing about living in a foreign country: It isn’t your country. You’re the visitor, the outsider, the minority. In those first few weeks and months of living abroad, nothing seems to come easy. You have to fight to meet people and become friends, show your respect for the new culture in which you find yourself, and essentially “sell yourself” each time you meet a new client, co-worker, peer student, or even neighbor. In this scheme, you ended up learning how to network, talk to new people on the regular, and develop tons of new communication skills. Your professional self thanks you.

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4. You developed your own sense of self

Again, living abroad is not for the faint of heart. Sure, it takes bravery to make the initial decision to move abroad, but it takes a whole lot of continued perseverance to stick to it when the going gets tough. All of this hard work can lead to an amazing self-transformation, wherein you actually learn more about yourself than about the new culture you’ve discovered. You may even begin to recognize your own identities and how they have influenced your place in the world up to this point. Of course, having a solid sense of self can mean becoming a more confident, mindful person in the workplace.

5. You widened your horizons

Because you’ve had so much exposure to the world, you probably came out a changed person following those experiences. You might find yourself slower to cast judgment, quicker to let the small things go and “pick your battles” so to speak, and you may even have a more diverse take on the world. Because no work environment is completely free of discord, the ability to accept people as they are, get along with others, and put things in their proper context will make you a diamond in the rough for future employers.

The life-changing experiences that accompany living abroad can continue to affect you long after your time abroad is up. As if there weren’t already so many wonderful reasons to go out there and explore the world, your own professional development can be tremendously benefited by it. All it takes is a willingness to try new things.

How has your time abroad helped you professionally? Please share your stories with us in the comments!