Gain cultural perspective
As influential as my time abroad was for
learning about new frontiers of science,
it was just as memorable for learning
about new cultures, and teaching me
to look at my own culture with a new
set of eyes. The opportunity to relate to
people from other cultures and the ability to adapt your mindset are, in my
opinion, the best gifts that living abroad
will give you.
Sometimes it can just be the little
things you change, like wishing everyone Guten Appetit before starting a
meal, or getting used to all businesses
and shops being closed on Sundays.
However, I’ve found that the real treasure comes after you’ve learned to adapt
and move past these small differences.
As much as textbooks can tell you about
the history of a place, they can’t connect
you with the stories of people whose
lives were changed directly by those historical events. Sure, reading about the
Berlin Wall was interesting, but sitting
Expand your network
Your experience working abroad will give you ample opportunities for networking. Naturally, you’ll meet people in your field
and people who have similar career aspirations as yours. If pursuing your career abroad is something you decide to do, you’ll be
able to get advice from senior scientists in your host country on
just how to do so.
That said, if you also put effort into expanding your network
outside of career contacts, your time abroad will be much more
fulfilling. Being a guest student puts you at a special advantage, as
you have both intense academic and cultural aspects to your learning experience, a chance many students don’t often get.
If you’re at an institution that caters to international students,
you probably won’t have trouble finding activities that have
an international flair, or people who are interested in cultural
exchange. If you’re at a place that has less of an active international community, take the opportunity to reach outside your comfort zone. You can easily meet people through language institutes
and clubs. Also, look to see if you can pursue interests and hobbies
you’ve already developed at home. If you play an instrument, look
for a local ensemble you could play with. If you’re interested in
inChemistry • www.acs.org/undergrad