I’m a proud mentor in the Step Up Women’s Network teen mentoring program. My mentee is a junior in high school, and once a month on a Saturday, I join 30 or so other professional women and their junior mentees for a day of learning, college preparation, and camaraderie. Last week, one of the topics of discussion was studying abroad. Sitting in a room of about 30 women, we went around the tables. The question, “Did you study abroad? If so, where? If not, what were your reasons?” One by one, each of us recounted our own stories of our choices in college to stay in America or go abroad. Two things happened:
- Those who spent time studying abroad in college counted it as one of the most enriching experiences of their lives and encouraged all of the girls to seek out study abroad opportunities at their own colleges.
- Those who did not go abroad counted that decision as a regret for them. Almost every woman who didn’t study abroad said she wished she had, and that if she had to do college over again absolutely would.
I personally fall into group #2. I was accepted into a study abroad program in London for the fall semester of my junior year of college. My boyfriend at the time, however, asked me not to go. He didn’t feel our relationship could survive if I crossed an ocean. So I stayed, and later married and then divorced said boyfriend. Clearly not one of my shining decisions in college. I was lucky, though, to have had travel experiences in high school that allowed me to go abroad and opportunities to learn about other cultures. But I still wish I could have had the experience of living abroad in college.
No matter which group you belong to, I hope you will agree that experiences living abroad can be invaluable to a woman building her career. The cultural knowledge, ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and independence traveling and even more so living abroad can provide phenomenal additions to an individual’s resume. The New York Times agrees, and recently published an article touting the benefits of completing an overseas internship, even if it comes with a high price tag. Click here to read their account in “Overseas Internships Can Benefit, For a Price.”
For those who are well past their college years, it’s not too late to achieve your dreams of living and working abroad. You might be able to do it with your current company, or find another company in your industry who regularly sends Americans abroad to work and live. There is no better resource for learning about how to find and get jobs abroad than Stacie Berdan and Perry Yeatman’s book, “Getting Ahead By Going Abroad.” In it, these two powerful women with a wealth of experience working abroad provide to their readers information on the types of opportunities you might seek abroad, the ways to convince your bosses or companies to select you for such an opportunity, and tips for becoming an expatriate.
Don’t let not going abroad by your biggest regret.