Experience abroad helps with working life, new research suggests

by Ray Clancy on January 19, 2016

International experience is one of the keys to having a focused role in your career and working life, according to a new report.

Almost half of people who have spent time abroad have gone on to have a productive and focused role in their work, says the research from the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

New Zealand AirIt is the first research of its kind to look at a whole range of different international experience including school exchange programmes, travel, volunteering, studying and working abroad, and evaluates the way in which these experiences help to build skills that generate short and long term benefits for individuals and employers.

A large majority of those who had benefited from an international opportunity described themselves as having the abilities needed for innovation. Some 73% said it helped them to gain strong analytical and critical thinking skills and 83% said it helped with strong problem solving skills.

More than half of those who had attended university overseas felt the experience had helped them find a job that interests them.

A quarter of those with international experience were also confident in their ability to speak a foreign language and felt that their time abroad had helped substantially in achieving this level of confidence. Among those with no international experience, less than one in 10 said they felt proficient in a foreign language.

Mark Herbert, head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said that there has never been a more important time for young people in the UK to have a global outlook to life and to work. “International experience helps build an individualís confidence, ability to innovate and to connect with counterparts around the globe, skills all absolutely vital for the UK’s economic ambition and place in the world,” he explained.

“And as more UK businesses look to expand into overseas markets, there is increasing demand for international experience and foreign language skills amongst our workforce. We need far more of our young people to take up international opportunities and learn languages, enriching their lives and helping the UK remain prosperous on the global stage,” he added.

The research found a significant variance between males and females at each end of the spectrum of international opportunities, with girls more likely to take part in school exchanges and men more likely to take up opportunities to work abroad. Men were also more likely to have experiences of three months or more, or multiple international experiences.

Some 60% of those with overseas experience now liaise with international colleagues, suppliers and customers in their working life where by comparison, just 30% of those without overseas experience have this type of role in the workplace.

People with multiple international experiences were encouraged by their first international experience to actively look for further study, travel or work related opportunities abroad, with those whose initial international experience was at school age being the most inspired to look for further opportunities.

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