Working abroad is about more than travelling. No matter what country you work in or which role you take on, an international co-op experience will lead to learning new skills. Working abroad will help you build relationships, be more innovative and develop yourself.
Ten skills students can gain from working abroad:
Each time you adapt to a new or changing situation, you increase your ability to handle stress and embrace change.
For example, if people tend to bike to work in the country you’ll be working in, you might adapt your own commuting plans.
Working with colleagues who may have different perspectives can build strong working relationships.
For example, working with people of diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles and viewpoints.
Effective communication skills are essential to sharing different types of information. Working in another country improves your listening, speaking and observational abilities.
For example, during your work term you may learn new meeting etiquette or adapt your digital communication style to be effective.
Asking thoughtful questions, being curious and using out-of-the-box thinking help hone your creativity.
For example, when working to find a solution to a problem during your international work term, you’ll need to ask lots of questions, take the time to learn about the context and be creative in your approach.
Finding innovative ways to solve problems requires understanding the big picture to making evidence-based recommendations.
For example, you’ll need to think critically about how to take an approach to projects that aligns best with local methods.
As all workplaces become increasingly diverse, understanding, appreciating and navigating cultural nuances is important. During your international work term, you may learn about cultural workplace norms.
For example, being aware that in some cultures asking your supervisor for clarifications could be perceived as challenging authority.
As a student from a Canadian university working internationally, you can gain a more global perspective.
For example, consider the ways in which your international work term can help to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and have a global impact.
Through your travels, you can discover new interests and attributes about yourself.
For example, visiting local cultural events, festivals and conferences by yourself or with colleagues can expand your horizons.
Clarifying your goals, persevering and achieving new challenges requires self-motivation and can increase your self-confidence.
For example, finding your own place to live despite language barriers or navigating an unfamiliar transportation system are small goals that have inherent rewards and can build self-motivation.
By learning about the experiences of others and understanding diverse points of view, you can gain perspective.
For example, working in a country that prioritize group harmony and collective success over individual performance can help you gain new perspective in how to approach group projects.
Want to learn more about skills for the future? The University of Waterloo’s Future Ready Talent Framework (FRTF) is a research-backed tool to help students understand key competencies to navigate the future of work and learning.