Why studying abroad will improve your career prospects

Going to a university outside your home country will give you knowledge, ideas, initiative, and more

Going to study abroad, you become a different person. At least according to Lizzie Fane, founder of  ThirdYearAbroad.com. Lizzie is a huge advocate of studying overseas, believing it helps you to develop hard-to-acquire skills and sharpens your business and entrepreneurial thinking.

Adventures and business ventures

The idea for her website, which provides resources to help students studying abroad, came during her own year abroad, spent in Florence for her degree in Italian and history of art.

"I felt a little abandoned by my university. I spent a few weeks just trying to figure out how to get to the right class!" says Lizzie. But eventually she managed to sort out her finances, accommodation and educational bureaucracy.

"Students who travel abroad immediately stand out as self-motivated, and employers are interested in the skills and knowledge that are developed when living in a different culture," says John Wastnage, a policy adviser at the  British Chamber of Commerce.

And what about if you want to set up your own enterprise? "There are countless successful businesses in the UK that were set up off the back of a good idea spotted in another country or by localising an exotic aspect of another culture to suit the British market," he adds.

"Not only does travel offer a source for inspiration, it also gives people the confidence that they can succeed at a novel adventure."

Robert Lo Bue agrees that the experience of living abroad fosters confidence and innovative thinking. The 26-year-old spent a year in Germany for his degree in international management and German.

He eventually found a job in Munich, where he worked for a software developer where one of his duties was to organise translations for their software products.

"I found it incredibly difficult to find affordable and accurate translation agencies who really understood the complexities of the iPhone and the app market," he says. "It was clear I could make this much easier for developers worldwide.

"So I registered a new company, Applingua Ltd. The plan was to create the easiest, most accessible app translation agency around. I went to the bank to open an account with just £200 and then sat at my desk, in front of my computer, and worked like a beaver for three weeks creating the website, setting up processes and finding translators I could work with."

"A few days later I got my very first client and turned that £200 into £3,500. I couldn't believe my luck!" Applingua has provided translations for Hipstamatic and doubled turnover in its second year, Robert says.

Any student who studies abroad is in a great position to start a business in Lizzie's opinion. "You have your student loan and possibly an Erasmus grant and, as someone who understands two cultures, you'll notice gaps in the market in both countries."

The very act of travel can also be a spur for your start-up, as Dominic Eden found during a backpacking trip though India. Mid-way through his final year at university, he started Gadabouting.com, a travel website born directly out of his backpacking experiences.

He thinks that travelling provides the right environment for those who want to be entrepreneurs. "You should make your life as unstable as possible, within reason," he says, "so you're forced to think creatively about the situations you're in."

Confidence and independence

Lizzie advises that, whether or not you want to be an entrepreneur, you do as much as you can to make the most of your time overseas. She took as many extracurricular classes as she could, trying to fill up gaps in her knowledge.

She also advises documenting your experience. "It almost forces you to do more interesting things. Blog, take pictures - you notice more, do more, and enjoy yourself more," she says.

Lizzie interviewed over 600 students on what they got out of their time abroad for a report she produced for The Higher Education Academy. The number one response was that it improved their confidence and independence.

"I remember getting off the plane with my life in a suitcase," says Robert of his arrival in Germany, "and asking the lady in the train station for a ticket to the city centre in German."

"When she handed me that ticket, [I felt a] sense of immense pride that finally, after years of learning, I had used my language skills to get something done."