5 ways living abroad teaches you to be adaptable

Picking up new ideas, learning new ways of doing things and being adaptable will make you a more valuable employee. It’s a special skill to be able to roll with the punches and make things happen by acclimating quickly. Going abroad to travel or do an internship is a great way to improve your adaptability because you’re taken out of your comfort zone and forced to adapt to a new culture.


5 ways living abroad teaches you to be adaptable


1) You’ll realize that everyone has a different sense of time

In fact, many “rules” about punctuality and appropriate professional behavior might be completely different abroad. This is an incredibly important lesson to learn because you realize the importance of office rules and culture. Being able to adapt to the different expectations of various professional settings will make you – and others – more at ease in professional group environments.


2) You’ll see discomfort become something comfortable

Mastering the art of playing it cool will get you far in life and in the office. It’s important to develop a bit of a poker face for professional settings as oftentimes you’ll be taken by surprise and expected to just run with it. Being abroad exposes young professionals to new, and sometimes uncomfortable, settings. Occasionally you just have to smile, relax and take every challenge, misunderstanding and moment of panic in your stride. There may be situations where you’re not sure what protocol is or you may be overwhelmed, but you can’t really do anything about it. You just have to keep calm and carry on. It’s easier said than done and it’s an essential skill that you’ll pick up while you’re abroad.


why should I go abroad


3) You’ll learn that a smile can change everything

There’s nothing like cracking a smile or joke to relieve tension and make everyone feel better about a misunderstanding. Living abroad is great for honing this ability because it requires a sense of humor. Taking yourself too seriously while abroad will make things harder. Why? Because you’re destined to make some sort of embarrassing blunder at some point, it’s inevitable. Whether or not you are able to laugh at yourself and move on will indicate your resilience and optimism.


4) You’ll understand the power of observation

Observation is an important element of adaptability. Learning how to speak and act in a foreign environment requires acute listening and watching before it can be replicated through repetition and practice. The observational skills developed abroad will also be incredibly useful in a professional environment as you soak in the office lingo, the relationships, the power dynamics and what’s required of you in terms of behavior and work duties.


5) You’ll realize what communication is essential

When thrown into a foreign language setting, where you don’t understand everything being spoken, it can be very frustrating at first. Not knowing all of what is being said puts you at a disadvantage and in a vulnerable position. However, part of being abroad is getting over that vulnerability and learning that there is essential communication and nonessential communication. Once you learn how to let yourself not understand everything but still engage in the language, you’ve learned how to communicate in a new and different way. This makes you a more valuable employee as you can adapt to different communication styles and languages.




1. based on Carefree, by cjai312, CC-by-ND 2.0

2. based on Travel Bag, by stwn, CC-by-SA 2.0


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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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