Why hire someone with international experience? It’s a simple question that is perhaps best answered with a story.
Meet Jared Stryker. 23 years old. Left-handed. Born on Christmas. Loves to travel and explore new, unfamiliar places.
The travel bug was sparked when he went to Japan through Rotary Youth Exchange in 2013. While he was there, he was faced with a number of challenges due to the language and culture barriers. But instead of backing down and giving up, he was persistent, optimistic, and always made the best out of the situation.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn a lot about yourself, as well as other countries,” he said. “And so, I wanted to do it again. I wanted to put myself in a country that I knew next to nothing about: where I didn’t know the language, where I didn’t know the culture, and where I could challenge myself, to throw myself way outside of my comfort zone and see what sticks.”
A natural risk taker, Jared was craving another experience like the one he had in Japan.
“I think it’s exciting to be in a situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, smiling. “That’s kind of fun.”
When I interviewed him, Jared had just returned from a 10 month exchange to Chongqing, China through Laurier International. There, he studied Mandarin and Chinese culture. His mornings were devoted to learning the language, and his afternoons were spent immersing himself in Chinese culture by participating in activities like “calligraphy or reading and writing classes […], or Chinese song.”
In fact, he actually did a song performance in Harbin, which is one of his favourite moments in China. Others include cycling around the southern island of Hainan over seven days, playing music in the square, and modelling for a month.
Having been able to experience so many things he would not have been able to if he stayed in Canada, he finds it “hard to pick out a favourite.” Granted, he could get involved with the Chinese communities here, but actually immersing one’s self in a different culture provides a completely different experience.
Of course, Jared also brought back language and culture skills. And, just like when he went to Japan, he did not come back the same person. His personal development was reflected in his positivity and optimism.
“You learn how to be more accepting of whatever the situation,” he said.
However, it’s difficult to instantly recognize how one has grown: “I think sometimes it takes a lot of reflection and a lot of time past your exchange to truly put things into perspective. It’s not always immediately noticeable that you’ve changed, but you’ve learned a lot of stuff.”
These soft and hard skills can be applied in both his studies and work.
“For school, because I’m in Global Studies, it really throws you into the fray of what you’re studying. A big part of [the program] is China and East Asian studies, so you get to see everything firsthand. You get to be on the front lines of what you’re studying,” he explained.
What’s more, since he went on exchange with Laurier International, he was still paying Laurier tuition, getting student loans, and he also managed to obtain a few transfer credits.
Laurier International aims to connect students with exchange experiences that will supplement their academic studies. They keep in contact with numerous universities and organizations around the world, making it easy for students to find placements in different countries. They also allow students to bring opportunities to them, and help the student with applications and provide support in the form of check-ins and information sessions.
“They make sure you’re safe. They’re very helpful,” said Jared.
Similarly, AIESEC provides students with the opportunity to go abroad and develop themselves both personally and professionally. The Global Internship Program, in particular, places fourth year undergraduate students and recent graduates in a 6 week to 12 month overseas internship, where they are integrated into the business’ operations. These passionate, motivated individuals can provide the business with a global youth perspective. There is also constant communication between the AIESEC committee in that region and the intern and the company to ensure that all parties are having the best experience possible.
International experience is always an asset when applying to jobs. Globalization is key in today’s economy. It is very difficult for businesses to survive on the economy alone. Small, medium, or large, they should be thinking about their company in a global perspective—and something that will give a company an advantage is hiring someone who has been to another country, who has learned their language, and has been immersed in their culture. They can leverage their international experience.
Above all, the soft skills that develop from being thrown into an unfamiliar country are very applicable in the workplace. Employers are always looking for good, persistent problem solvers with high emotional intelligence, because they will be able to make the decisions that will help the company succeed.
“You might react to [situations] in a more positive way. You’ll be able to deal with stresses and curveballs more easily,” Jared said. “It [also] helps in trying to understand people. And it gives you a lot of perspective, I think.”
So why hire someone with international experience? They are positive, optimistic risk-takers who are eager to tackle any problems that arise. They can easily adapt to sudden disruptions, and they can apply the skills they developed through their international experience to the workplace. Lastly, they are always willing to challenge themselves, to develop themselves further.
When asked if he would go abroad again, Jared eagerly replied: “yes, of course. I’d love to go somewhere else that I don’t know.”