As I wound through the country roads the morning of July 22nd 2016, memorising the all too familiar miles of green around me, I tried to imagine what the following year had in store for me. The weeks of last minute packing and goodbye parties were actually over and I was exchanging the Emerald Isle for Barcelona. For real. Not just for a holiday but to live and work there for a year.
Of course, there are the obvious pros of moving abroad, like meeting new people, learning a language and broadening your horizons, but we’ve all heard that before now, haven’t we? Whilst sun, sangria and maybe even the odd siesta are all part of a year in Barcelona, there are many more reasons why moving abroad is, in my opinion, simply the best thing an individual can do.
- International Experience is in Demand
It’s a vicious cycle that is continuously driven into the mind of students, employers want graduates to have experience. It’s become a broken record! It’s not all doom and gloom however, as an often overlooked, potentially easier way to get this all-important experience, is to work abroad. There are countries out there crying out for employees with knowledge of the English language as a native speaker. Obviously this is dependent on the country, but if you work in a company alongside non-native English speakers, you will automatically be given high levels of responsibility and instead of being the one asking the questions; people will come to you to acquire knowledge. We all know that experience on a CV is a requirement, but international experience? That is very much a desired asset to have as an employee. More and more, companies are turning their focus to the international arena so with an understanding of different cultures and business practices, your CV will stand out amongst the sea of students in your position!
- Personal Development
Working abroad will push you to the limits of your comfort zone and beyond, compared to if you were to remain at home. Your experience abroad will drive you to gain independence, attain indispensable skills in a personal and professional sphere and grow umpteen amounts in confidence. Working abroad will not only help you realise your full potential in your professional life but it will also benefit you personally too. I can safely say it has enabled me to make relative, positive and effective life choices!
- The PEOPLE
It wasn’t all smooth running. I had my down moments, let’s be realistic – everyone does. There were times when I simply didn’t want to socialise. I was stressed from work, missing home comforts and wanted to go home. It was times like these that my Barcelona family pulled me through. It is amazing hat a combination of good people from varying backgrounds and a few beers can do! In fact, as I write about the amazing people I met; a Lithuanian, a Spanish and a Czech are on a flight to see the wonders of Northern Ireland. It is my turn to be the tour guide! As cliche as it may sound, they really are friends for life.
- Travel Opportunities
It should go without saying but working abroad will allow you to extend beyond the border of your country of choice and explore the world! Whilst you may not be able to travel in the traditional sense, you can still make the most of your weekends and public holidays. You could also extend your time abroad after your placement to travel fully so take advantage of your geographic location and see a different side of the world! If you are lucky enough to get some work holidays and use them to take a trip home, you will realise how much we take things for granted, in addition to learning who the most important people in your life are!
- You learn SO MUCH
The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations. Doing a year abroad is a funny (but awesome) thing – you feel a bit like you’re on holiday, whilst simultaneously settling into a new home. When you move abroad, you automatically learn about a new culture, other people and languages without even trying, but mainly, living in another country pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you know you’re only in a country for a limited amount of time, you just want to make the most of every opportunity, say yes to everything (within reason), travel everywhere and yes, eat everything. My justification? It’s one year in a lifetime, embrace it.
It has been nearly 3 months from I arrived home from my year abroad, and it is safe to say that the ‘Barcelona Blues’ are well and truly getting to me. It’s hard to believe that I’ve just spent a whole year abroad, on my own, and survived – for anyone who knows me well, this is a miracle!
My point is, moving to Spain was nothing like I expected it to be – it was 10 times better. As far as I’m concerned, if you can conquer your year abroad, you can do just about anything. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself working abroad, in an international environment, then get out there and do it – life is too short!
Check out this short video summarising one of my typical after work picnics on the beach, it’s really not your standard placement!
Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/