There are so many reasons why travel is good for you. You can explore new cultures, try new foods and meet inspirational people, to name a few. But did you know that going abroad is like boot camp for your brain too? A multicultural and multilingual experience makes you sharper, more creative and more open to the world around you. Keep these wonderful benefits of being abroad in mind next time you’re considering an international internship. It’s not just your professionalism that will grow – but your brain too!
7 ways being abroad affects your brain:
1. Improved creativity
There’s a reason why famous authors and artists travel the world in search of inspiration. Going to an unknown land means new sensory experiences – sights, sounds and smells that you’ve never come across before. Studies say that spending an extended period of time in a new and foreign context leads to improved “cognitive flexibility”, which is basically the brain’s ability to jump nimbly from idea to idea. “Cognitive flexibility” is a crucial part of what makes us creative. To sum things up, more exposure to new cultural contexts = a more creative brain. Pretty cool, right?
2. Greater resistance to dementia and Alzheimer’s
Learning a foreign language abroad is an investment in your future brain. The effects of aging on the brain are unavoidable, however, aging monolinguals tend to see cognitive decline earlier than polyglots. Learning a foreign language requires an intense attention to detail and that ability affects the brain, making it more resistant to losing information. The great thing about this is that you don’t even have to be fluent to see these positive cognitive effects – having the basics of another language down can help offset the aging of your brain.
3. Better decision-making abilities
If you’re abroad and picking up a new language, you may actually become better at making tough decisions (woo!). You’re not going to be swayed as much by propaganda because you’re “more resistant to conditioning and framing techniques”, according to a study cited by the Atlantic. Multilingual people also make better spending decisions, treating money spent through credit card and in cash more similarly than monolinguals.
4. Boosted faith in humanity
Your whole sense of humanity can change after spending some time immersed in a foreign culture. Once you’re forced outside of your comfort zone, you make connections with people coming from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds. Recognizing that common goodness in people, across cultures, makes you see the world as a better place.
5. Greater ability to make connections and problem solve
When young people have a truly open mind about a foreign culture, they can find connections where others might see only black and white. That ability to see grey area where others cannot makes them better problem solvers and even more entrepreneurial. Establishing links between seemingly different ideas can lead to innovation, good ideas, promotions and a bright future.
6. Improved sense of self
Recent research has shown that people who are able to connect with individuals from various cultural backgrounds actually have a stronger sense of who they are. Living in a foreign context makes you more attune to the culture that defines you. Once you have immersed yourself in another world, learned about different beliefs and lifestyles, you become more aware of the different cultural influences that make you who you are.
7. Heightened perception of the world around you
Learning a new language is a bit of a paradigm shift for your brain. Suddenly there is a new set of metaphors and frames and concepts. You learn completely new ways of expressing ideas and experiences. Being multilingual gives you a different lens and heightened perception of the world around you, making you able to better recognize when incoming information is of value or not.
These are only 7 of the reasons why travel is good for you and your brain. Apply now to boost your career and discover all of the other reasons!
Sources: http://time.com/79937/how-studying-or-working-abroad-makes-you-smarter/, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/for-a-more-creative-brain-travel/388135/, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/more-languages-better-brain/381193/
Photo 3. based on Think, by Moyan Brenn, CC-by-2.0