COLUMBUS, Ohio — Studies show that experiences abroad make us more flexible, creative and complex. A growing body of research on the effects of people volunteering, studying or working abroad demonstrates that they think more critically than the average person.
William Maddux found that among students enrolled in an international MBA program, their global experiences predicted how “integratively complex” their learning became. This was measured in terms of students “multicultural engagement” — the extent to which they adapted and learned about new cultures.
What is more is that the number of students who adopted this open and adaptive attitude toward foreign cultures had a direct correlation to the number of job offers they received after the program ended.
Students who had experiences abroad were increasingly capable of making connections between contrasting ideas. Maddux writes in his study, “people who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity.”
The GLOSSARI project at the University of Georgia had similar findings. Among the 20,000 students tracked for 10 years, those who participated in study abroad programs performed better in school after returning to their American universities.
Living abroad allows individuals to learn about a country’s culture firsthand, as well as the issues they face. People are challenged to use their skill set and knowledge in an unconventional setting.
According to goingglobal.com, volunteers abroad are able to exchange ideas with local people — an essential part to aiding in personal growth and development. Additionally, volunteer projects are often challenging and come with harsh living conditions. Despite obstacles, this environment pushes volunteers to develop an open mind and flexible attitude, which is something that will stay with them for a lifetime.
If individuals are willing to adapt and learn from other cultures, whether they are studying, working or volunteering in another country, it can make them more flexible, creative and complex. While going abroad is great for sightseeing, we can also help others, and in the process, help ourselves.