Can an International Education Improve Your Career Prospects?
Guia Arevalo spoke to four professionals about the impact their international education has had on their careers. Here’s what they had to say.
Studying abroad is becoming more and more popular among students. In fact, UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics reports that the world’s international student population has been growing by 12% every year since 2013. But while an international education can bring with it a lot of exciting prospects in the short-term, on the other hand, it requires time, effort, and monetary resource from students who might be wondering, is it worth it?
We spoke to four graduates about how their international education experience has benefited them in their career pursuits.
Every student aspires to get the best education they can possibly get, even if it means flying across the globe to achieve it. For Ahmad Chit, the quality of education abroad which is not available in his home country of Kuwait is what convinced him to go to Toronto, Canada to pursue his interests in accounting. Studying abroad not only exposed Chit to new learning approaches, but also being trained under professors who hold degrees from prestigious institutions, were advantages that far outweighed the cost of studying abroad. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2008, Chit worked as an analyst in an audit firm in Toronto for four years. This gave him valuable experience and industry insights that paved the way for his current role as a senior director of forensic investigations at a reputable company in Dubai.
Of course, it doesn’t end there—a superior quality of education is only one of the benefits of studying abroad. A 2015 UK Higher Education International Unit study compared the graduation outcomes of international students versus those who stayed in their home country. The study found that international graduates not only were less likely to be unemployed, but also earned more in six out of nine occupations. This may be a significant consideration if you are aspiring to become a banker, an engineer, or a health professional because in 2011, a QS Global Employer Survey Report found that employers from certain industries actively seek candidates with an international degree. Saleh Yousef is another accounting graduate who asserted that studying abroad opened up a lot of opportunities for him. When he returned to his home country after earning his degree from Indiana in the United States, Saleh served as an accountant in Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior for a year. Today, he works as a loans superintendent where he manages the disbursements of loans for the Kuwait Fund, a government institution that provides credits and grants to other countries.
There’s another good reason why employers value an international experience. Skills and industry knowledge aren’t enough in an increasingly globalized economy. Adaptability and cultural understanding are important qualities when working with professionals from all walks of life. Gunjan Malekar was only 3 months old when her family made the move from Mumbai, India to Dubai, where she had grown up and spent most of her life in. At the time of her high school graduation, options for higher education in Dubai were more limited than it is today, so at 16, she decided she would fly to the US in search of the right foundation for her career. While earning her bachelor’s degree in advertising and business administration, she discovered a love for advising and working with students, which led to her study student counseling and international education policy administration for her master’s. After graduation, she worked at the University of Vermont as a regional director where she had the opportunity to offer personal, wellness, academic, and conduct counseling to college students and train them in areas of leadership, personal development, social justice and diversity awareness. “Having the privilege of living abroad and traveling to various countries has taught me the value of being culturally sensitive and ambient,” she said, “which has immensely benefited how I operate in diverse professional and social environments.” Gunjan continues her passion to this day as a freelance education consultant in Dubai where she helps students in pursuing their academic careers abroad.
But perhaps, one can argue that the most important benefit of an international education to your career is also one that you carry with you even beyond the workplace. Ron Nipay is a Filipino whose family has been living in Dubai for 7 years when he left to study industrial engineering in New York. When asked why he chose his major, Ron explained, “I enjoy pinpointing inefficiencies and developing ways to make systems run better,” so when he had the chance to earn his bachelor’s degree from an institution that is widely recognized in this field, he grabbed the opportunity despite the fact that it would mean living in a totally different environment away from his family. “[It] was a great opportunity for me to learn to be more independent and adaptable to change,” he said about the experience, “I view these as highly valuable life skills.” Ron has since completed not just his bachelor’s, but as well as his master’s degree from the same institution and now works as a quality engineer in a semiconductor manufacturing company in New York.
As a young individual, you might be focused more on the short-term benefits of studying abroad, and that’s okay – we’ve even previously listed a few fun reasons why you should do it! However, an international education is an investment whose returns you don’t fully realize until way after you have earned your degree. So, whatever your motivations are for studying abroad, the most important thing is that you take advantage of such privilege so that you can ultimately come out of it better educated, more employable, and an overall well-rounded person.
Guia Arevalo was raised in Dubai and graduated from the Far Eastern University in Manila with a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Piquing Guia's interest is never a challenge — she could be immersed in a documentary featuring anything from Chris Rock talking about African American hair to David Attenborough in a bee suit. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, being on Reddit, and learning graphic design.