WEEK 7: TO OXFORD AND BEYOND

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I think the best place we can grow is far from our roots

It’s been a while since I last mentioned it, but if you read my bio you should remember that I’m going to be studying abroad at Oxford next year.

This week is kind of a momentous occasion for me because I finally sent out my application for a UK student visa. It was a lot of paperwork and a hefty fee (nearly $500) but it’s kind of the last hurdle I need to jump over before I get to spend an entire year in England.

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My impending study abroad experience got my financial brain working. Recently, I’ve been talking a lot about careers, internships, and things of that nature. A good job is ultimately going to be the best way to pay off my mountain of student loans, and in order to get that, I’ll need a pretty strong résumé.

I’ve been doing pretty well with getting experience from internships and extracurricular activities, but I’m starting to think that there are other kinds of experiences that can help prepare you for a good career. We learn new things every day from some of the most unexpected places (the studies show it), so is it really inconceivable to believe that some of the best career nurturing experiences you can get may not come in the form of an internship?

I don’t think so. In fact, I think that’s almost obvious to assume. There’s a whole wide world out there, and if we just learned about how to do our jobs better every day, we’d be more like robots than human beings.

STUDYING ABROAD AND WHY IT’S AWESOME

I can’t speak directly from experience just yet, but there have been a ton of people that claim studying abroad was the best thing they ever did during their time in college. If you think about it, you’re really kind of on your own when you go abroad. Your family and friends are most likely an ocean away, you’re living in an unfamiliar place, and you may be dealing with a language barrier depending on your location.

To a lot of people, this is the very definition of terrifying. To other people (mainly me) terrifying looks a little bit more like this.

As scary as studying abroad may sound though, it’s hard to deny that it might be one of the best growth experiences in a person’s life. Just imagine how much you’ll learn about yourself and what you’re capable of by spending some time completely detached from everyone and everything you know.

You won’t be the only person who gains something out of the experience either. Surveys have shown that employers love seeing study abroad experiences on the résumés of potential candidates, and there’s a whole science on how to market your experience to employers.

So studying abroad next year might not just be a good move for me personally, but professionally as well.

WHAT TO DO IF IT ISN’T FOR YOU

The fact of the matter is that not every college student is going to get the chance to study abroad. Some people may not be able to financially, while others like science and engineering majors usually can’t because of academic requirements. Growth opportunities aside, the whole thing might just seem too overwhelming for other students.

But just because you can’t go abroad doesn’t mean you there aren’t other cool opportunities out there!

College students take a year off to do something interesting in a gap year all the time. Some of my more child-loving friends have also considered becoming au pairs for a semester or so to get some international exposure without any studying.

The possibilities of what you can do are endless. The point here is that sometimes the life experience that ends up being the most beneficial to your career may not have actually had anything to with it in the first place.

So seek out some of those more off-the-beaten-path opportunities when they come your way. I did, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that a year from today, I’ll be able to say that it paid off.

(Photo: Flickr/Daveon)

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  1. Glenn Hall August 17, 2012 / 1:38 pm

    You should continue to follow the SALT blog while you are at Oxford next year, and post comments if you are not able to continue to write a regular blog yourself. Describe how it is spending junior year abroad and how you are getting along financially. My nephew spent last year studying in Paris and said it was the greatest experience of his life. He found the two French universities he attended to be a lot easier than Hamilton College where he is attending (he’s heading back for his senior year in a couple of weeks – what a change from Paris to upstate New York!).

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