Activating Students Skills Abroad

By Tara O'Carroll

Why Every Student Should Travel Abroad and Use Skills Relevant to Their Degree

I will never forget the advice I was given when I first started university from my older and wiser brother:

"Make good use of your summer months to travel, and do something exciting that you will never forget.  You are only young once, you will never have those opportunities again in your adult working life".

I mean, it is quite simple advice right?  At the age of 18 I was like a sponge, open minded to learn and experience anything new, and I took his words quite literally to the point where every summer I have completed a significant life changing self-development project, and he was right I have memories that I will cherish forever!

Last week I finished my Masters in Strategic Management – a massive milestone in my life that I am greatly proud of and I suppose you could say that I am ‘coming out the other side’ of the fun filled student life.  On reflection of those impactful words shared by my brother, I have some advice of my own that I would like to share with our fellow readers.  I think it’s important to experience something new and travel for sure, but what I have learnt is that...

"You should activate the skills relevant to what you have studied in university or even through your own personal projects.  With those skills you should and travel far and wide where they can be put to good use in a developing economy".

It’s like a win-win situation.  You, the young student, get to go abroad, engage the skills you have learnt in university in a unique way, whilst also gaining industry experience.  I am a true believer that these types of learning potentials are transferred at a much higher rate than those typically gained within your home country setting.

I can relate to this personally because this summer I had a strong yearning desire to travel someplace where I felt I could make a difference.  I was faced with the tension between ‘should I be applying for internships or should I go with my gut and do something where I could stand out from the crowd?’  In my opinion I believe society has put pressure on students like myself to pursue internships to guarantee that when you graduate you will walk into a new job.  As a young student with lots of energy and a creative problem solving skills set, I felt compelled to cross the Irish seas to the developing city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where my skills could be put to much better use.  The positive impact I could have in a country like Tanzania would be far more impactful than in Ireland.

In light of this a team of four of us headed off to Tanzania.  To give you a little insight to our backgrounds we had one Engineer, one Management Information Systems student and two Business students.  In short and you can check out other blogs that we have done - we set up a consulting group with students in the university of Dar es Salaam and we worked on a client project for a company which was in the pilot stage of starting up a solar energy off-grid electric business model.  One of the conversations that I had with my fellow colleagues that has really resonated with me, (Keep in mind, we have all completed internships) was that they felt what we learned from running this project seed initiative in Tanzania, was far more superior that anything they had ever learnt from an internship.  I think for me personally that says it all, would you not agree?

On a final note, I am cognisant that I am no longer a student, but I felt the imperative to share these views.  I am lucky to say that on evaluation of our project it was a complete success.  And all the skills that I learnt I can bring forth to the workplace.

Just because it’s not ‘the done thing’, doesn’t mean you should be discouraged.  If you have the right mind-set anywhere you go in the world you can make a positive change for the better.  To tie it back to the opening advice – remember, as a student you have 3 to 4 months off every summer, do something unique and make sure you activate your relevant skills sets. We are very privileged individuals to be educated to a high level, why not share it someplace in the world where it’s needed more?

Let us know how you activate your skills abroad!