Yes, I said it. Every PR student should spend an extended period of time (more than 2 weeks) immersing themselves in a foreign culture.
I started college with study abroad already on my mind. After debating several destinations and playing with several course-plans, I ended up choosing to complete my concentration (12 credits) in the capital of España. After two wonderful months exploring Madrid, I am preparing to head hack to Michigan next week.
I’ve grown so much as a person this summer. The benefits I received from my studying abroad outweigh any up-front sticker cost. The experiences I’ve had in Spain and the rest of Europe will help me become a better public relations pro and help me immensely in my (international) job search.
Before I left Ferris I had a lot of conversations with my fellow PRSSA members about study abroad. Many were interested but were on the fence about leaving home. My best piece of advice? DO IT. Big Rapids will be there when you come home. You won’t regret it.
Still not convinced?
- Study abroad forces you out of your comfort zone.
As future PR pros, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Culture shock is real and for some it’s very difficult to overcome. The food will be different, the pace of life will be different, and the language might even be different. You learn to adapt to all the changes and you learn to embrace some of them. The more open you are to new things, the more successful you’ll be in the PR industry.
- Study abroad gives you the opportunity to create a global network.
How many times have you heard the word networking? Networking is crucial in our industry. Study abroad provides you with endless opportunities to make friends from around the world. You never know when your new relationships will come in handy, even if it’s just to crash on their couch in NYC or grab dinner in Portugal. Having a global network future/current professionals from around the globe will put you one step ahead of the competition.
- Study abroad teaches you to go with the flow.
Que sera sera. What will be, will be. Those of you that know me know that I am a type A, busy body, who is always adding things to my planner. Not in Spain! The Spanish have a very slow paced, relaxed lifestyle. I have learned to love Spanish time. In the States I’m always 10 minutes early, here 5 minutes late is still considered early.
I am constantly getting lost and struggling through Spanish conversations but I’ve learned to see the beauty in the struggle. No pasa nada. As future PR pros, we’ve already accepted our stressful fate but study abroad teaches you effective ways to cope with that stress and manage difficult situations.
- Study abroad introduces you to a new culture (and hopefully a new language)
When I was picking my study abroad destination, I knew I wanted to spend time in a culture that was drastically different from the USA. I also wanted one where I could work on my Spanish language skills. Madrid filled both of my requirements. I assumed I would be fine with the little Spanish I remembered because everyone knows English right? WRONG. Madrileños (people of Madrid) who speak English are few and far between. On the brightside, it gives me the opportunity to work on my Spanish 24/7. If there’s a language barrier, your communication skills will get better (or you’ll just get really good at Spanglish). Spainiards appreciate downtime, like siestas, and treasure their meal time. Shops in Madrid close at 3 on Sundays and local ones will shut down during the afternoon. Each little cultural difference has opened my eyes to other ways to do things. It’s made me more conscious of myself and the world around me.
Bonus: Travel now because you’ll probably be too busy/broke/tied-down after you graduate.
I might not get another chance in my life to avoid my responsibilities and live on my own in the center of Spain for two months. There might not be another time in my life when the biggest decision is deciding whether to spend a solo weekend in Porto, Portugal or run with the bulls in Pamplona with a group of new friends.
Thanks student loans for making my dreams come true, I owe you.
Disclaimer: travel isn’t as glamorous as it looks on Pinterest but in the end that just makes you a stronger person (and a better future PR pro). I’ve had to overcome so many obstacles in the past month but each one has taught me a valuable lesson.
So with that being said, I encourage all of you to study abroad during your college career. Keep your concentration open or pick up a minor/certificate. It’s easier than you might think.
I hope I inspired the wanderlust in some of you.
Much love to all my PRPeeps. Shoutout to everyone on internship or starting their first job (looking at you Tarah). Keep up all the hardwork this summer. You are all making me #PRProud!