Monday, 17 September 2018

How Studying Abroad Develops Leadership Skills

Jack Cundall, SELA Cohort 2016

Leadership involves connecting with a wide range of people, from inspiring employees to building business relationships, to keeping stakeholders happy. However, you might find it harder to build rapport with someone if you don’t understand what makes them tick, and this is especially hard if they are from a different culture.

A big part of studying abroad involves meeting people of different nationalities, not only from the country you are living in but also the community of other exchange students who you will spend time with. This is very interesting on a personal level to learn about different cultures. But job applications often look for candidates with good communication skills and spending every day with people whose first language is not English definitely develops this skill. If you can learn a language while studying abroad – even better.

Another aspect of studying abroad which is applicable to leadership is adapting to change. You are thrown into an unfamiliar environment, with new people, and many things are different to how you expect them to be. This is important to entrepreneurs and business leaders as the business environment changes rapidly and unless you adapt you will fall behind.

Many engineering companies are international and if you are willing to work abroad then there are significantly more opportunities available to you. Studying abroad prepares you for this and gives you an idea of what it will be like and whether it is suited to you.

I studied abroad in America. The education system was fairly different in America compared to the UK, which gave me a different perspective on learning. There was a lot of continual assessment throughout the year which led me to develop a strong work ethic and better time management. The classes involved a lot more group work and presentations which are both useful leadership skills.

There was also enough flexibility that I could take advantage of the wide variety of courses available. For example, I took classes in design optimisation, international business cultures, and space system design. You may also get access to different engineering facilities compared to Sheffield and different societies. For example, the University of Maryland has wind tunnels which are used by industry and teams which have entered competitions for human-powered flight or the recent student Hyperloop competition.

Overall, I think studying abroad will complement my personal development and I look forward to completing the SELA programme when I return to Sheffield this September.

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