DYV07: Using education abroad to leave your comfort zone

In my last post I highlighted the professional skills employers are looking for in recent college graduates. In this post, I want to discuss how students can use international education and experiential travel programs to leave their comfort zone. This entry is an excellent example of illustrating what I mentioned in a previous post regarding the link between professional development and personal growth. For example, since employers are looking for candidates with outstanding oral and written communication skills, students need to continuously improve how well they communicate with others in a variety of formats.

Most students, however, and this is true for most adults as well, are uncomfortable with one or more specific aspects of communication such as public speaking, writing down a compelling story or contributing to group dialogue. Thus, to improve their communication skills, which in turn can help students market themselves for graduate school or employment, students should consider intentionally working on their ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable.  Participating in off-campus programs is one of the many ways students can do just that.

Here are three reasons how students can use education abroad programs to leave their comfort zone.

1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable in a new location

Study abroad programs allow students to work through the uncomfortableness of a new geography. All too often students, whether they are residents or commuters, get into a comfortable zone with their campus. The buildings, streets and paths that become routine can lull students into a sense of comfortableness. Learning how to deal with the uncomfortableness of new accomodations, cultures and transportation systems in new locations provide students with ample opportunities to work through the uncomfortableness of communicating in a new environment.

2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable with new people

Participating in international education programs such as adventure travel allows students to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable when meeting new people. Just as the geography of a campus becomes familiar so too do the people students encounter on a regular basis. Learning how to work through the uncomfortableness of communicating with someone who is different from themselves affords students with many opportunities to grow both professionally and personally.

3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable with new tasks to accomplish

Getting an internship away from campus or volunteering abroad allows students to take on new responsibilities which often generate a high degree of uncomfortableness. While working through these tasks may be uncomfortable at first, students will often find they their written and oral communication skills improve as does their ability to advocate for themselves.

Getting comfortable at being uncomfortable is a life-long skill that will serve students well as they look to get a life of their own following graduation. Since much of life makes people uncomfortable students will serve themselves well if they can acquire this habit and then continuously work on it throughout their career.

“Discover Your Value (DYV)” is a 14-part blog series that helps individuals learn how to communicate their value to others with an emphasis on their international experience. Michael Edmondson, Ph.D., is the Director of Marketing and Recruitment for The Philadelphia Center. He and Peter Abramo, Ph.D., are the authors of The ABCs of Marketing Yourself: A Workbook for College Students, upon which this series of blog posts is based. You can follow Michael on Twitter at @ThinkActGrow.

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