Whether you have a Year Abroad built into your degree, an optional Semester/Year Abroad or are simply considering international work experience, it can be a daunting decision as to what exactly you want to do during your time spent abroad, or even whether it’s something you want to do. The idea of working in another country and/or language can be intimidating, especially when it’s something you haven’t experienced before. However, trying new things can be hugely beneficial, and there are lots of great reasons why doing a work placement abroad will give you both concrete and transferable skills for your future career, whatever the sector.
I’m a final-year Modern Languages student so have a compulsory year abroad, and I was able to secure a work placement for my first six months in Barcelona. Whilst I was lucky to have this opportunity integrated within my degree, I would recommend international work experience to anyone that is interested, for example in holidays or after university. There are many ways to work abroad, such as paid or unpaid internships, or more hospitality-based roles that sometimes pay for your accommodation. Even if it is unpaid, there are ways to get around this such as the University Bursary Schemes that can help support you with global placements. There is also the UoB Global Challenge Internship scheme that advertises fully-funded placements!
Last year, I worked at a small translation agency in Barcelona where I was the only native English speaker in the office. I worked full-time translating and proofreading documents of different types including marketing, legal and sales. I was also able to obtain Social Media Marketing experience through scheduling Twitter and Blog Posts for the company using the Hootsuite platform. Over the course of the placement, I tried as many experiences as possible, and was even able to attend a global trade fair and feature on a radio show – two things that I could never have imagined doing before!
Here are some of the main advantages:
- Cultural awareness: in an increasingly globalised world, time spent abroad is invaluable to become more aware of different cultures, and cultural awareness is seen as an increasingly important professional asset. This can improve your communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills that will only benefit you in your future career path. I worked with and met people of over 15 nationalities so working abroad is a great way to meet new people.
- Language skills: if you’re like me and study or speak another language, international placements of course have the added bonus of improving your language skills on a daily basis. Whilst you can get English-speaking international experience too, it was particularly beneficial for me to speak and read 6-7 hours of Spanish a day. This has hugely helped me with my final year as I had a really solid foundation from improving my language skills in the office where I was forced to push myself and defend my ideas.
- Great for your CV: I often get asked about my international experience at interviews and it’s a great talking point, as not only can you talk about your professional experience, but also the life skills and independence that you gained from working in a foreign country. It shows a lot of confidence, motivation and adaptability over and above the other concrete skills.
- Prepares you for graduate life: this is the same for all work experience but international placements in particular give you that extra level of independence and allow you to experience something that is totally different from academic life. My placement made me excited to start working and helped me understand my own strengths, weaknesses and professional areas of interest to expand on in the future.
- Expands your global network: a work placement abroad will likely allow you to build relationships with work colleagues and other young professionals that you may meet during your placement. This can lead to a lasting relationship, and you never know when it might be useful to have international contacts! In Barcelona, there were many other events organised to help you meet new people and this would be the same for many other cities. Although I left my placement over a year ago, I still carry out work for my old company on a freelance basis and this continues to help me develop professionally.
- You get to live abroad! This is a given, but shouldn’t be underestimated – a chance to live for a short period in another country is a great way to travel and explore the best of what it has to offer, from gastronomy and museums to beaches and mountains. Make the most of it!
Interested in finding out more?
Get advice on where to find global opportunities, and whether to get experience in the UK or abroad. You can also create an account on Passport Career which has country-specific information to help support you with your global career exploration, worldwide job searches, and internship planning. Start your search now!
- Written by Jessie Read, CAL SET Member and BA Modern Languages student