How living and learning abroad makes you a better entrepreneur?

July 31, 2019 •

3 min reading

How living and learning abroad makes you a better entrepreneur?

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Seventy-two percent of companies on the S&P 500 reported some amount of international revenue, which means that today, entrepreneurship needs to connect to a worldwide audience -- and not just the local folks. Given the data, it makes sense that studying abroad or living overseas can have a powerful impact on young entrepreneurs through cultural exposure.

Learn just how time spent in other countries increases your entrepreneurial skills.

Make cultural connections

Language acquisition may be what's touted when educators speak about the benefits of studying abroad. While language learning is important, what is equally important yet not discussed is the cultural comfort that comes with spending time in a new country.

Travelers, expats, and students who are studying abroad immerse in the culture of their host country. They learn common etiquette and local customs. The more understanding young business leaders have of different cultures, the more effective they can be when doing business, by showing respect to those cultures.

One simple example is color, which has different meanings in different countries. By understanding the cultural meaning of colors that might be in your product or logo, you can show cultural sensitivity. To fit in, major brands like McDonalds alter their signature colors (red and yellow) internationally: The Japan McDonalds website uses brown and yellow, while in Italy, they use dark green and yellow.

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Grow your soft skills

Soft skills or people skills are highly important in business, yet schools do not focus on emotional intelligence as part of their curriculum.

Travelers can build up their people skills through exposure to other cultures and through the often-humbling process of trying to navigate an unfamiliar land and culture with less-than-perfect-language skills. In other countries, the usual way of doing things that you relied on at home may not work, so you will need to try something new. This builds flexibility in your approach, so you have a range of different options to try when you encounter a problem.

Travel heightens awareness, and entrepreneurs who can retain that level of curiosity and attention to detail in the business setting can hone their emotional intelligence to close the deal.

Develop better listening skills

Studying abroad builds listening skills as well as patience, which is in short supply in modern society. Even if you understand the local language, you'll hear a range of accents, colloquialisms, and expressions that you may not be used to.

You'll also hear different concepts when you study in a new county, because education has a national perspective no matter where you study.

For example, consider American history: it focuses heavily on the colonial period and Revolutionary War, which established American independence from the UK. In the UK, the same material is little more than a blip on the screen of British history, since America is really one colony of many that Britain lost over time.

When you become a better listener, you can understand what people need from you and deliver. This can win you the deal, secure customer loyalty, and propel your business to the top of your niche.

Build your self-confidence

Travel and study abroad programs put you in situations that are unfamiliar, where you have to learn and appreciate others' perspectives. You may not understand all of what's going on, but you have to trust and adapt and proceed even when the outcome is not obvious. This can be intimidating but when you stick with it, something marvelous happens: You hone your trust and intuition, and you understand that you will be okay even though you can't predict what is going to happen. Repeated exposure to uncertainty builds poise and self-confidence, skills that reward young entrepreneurs several times over.

Get new ideas

One side effect of spending time in a new culture, where everything is outside of your daily routine, is increased creativity. When everything is different from what you expect, you gain a new perspective on your habits, routines, beliefs, and ideas. This can lead directly to new ideas about your company, one creative projects, or personal insights that make you a better business person.

Neuroscience shows that brains are stimulated by new activity and information. So your brain is actually working harder, with more neurons firing, because you are in an unfamiliar environment. You can actually boost smarts and brain power through time spent studying abroad.

Spending time overseas will enrich your life, make you a better person, and connect you to people and experience you never would have had if you just stayed home. Due to all these benefits, it's no wonder so many people who study abroad get the travel bug - which is in our opinion, is a good problem to have!

Written by

Lecturer and International Career Coordinator at EHL Passugg

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