Can Studying Abroad Make You a Better Entrepreneur?
Paris. Tokyo. Buenos Aires. London. Seoul. If you’ve ever dreamed of traveling the world, consider a study abroad program. Not only will you get to see some of the most interesting and famous sights in the world, but you’ll learn a new language and meet people outside your own community. All of this helps make you a more culturally sensitive and well-rounded person. But can studying abroad help you become a better young entrepreneur?
SEE HOW OTHER CULTURES RUN THEIR BUSINESSES FIRST-HAND
You already know what types of products you and your friends like to use. But what do your foreign peers like? Do they use the same apps and devices?
When you spend a semester abroad, you’ll be surrounded by teens your age. You’ll get to see how young entrepreneurs in, say, Germany, launch small businesses and keep them afloat. How do they solve problems? What challenges do they face? What can you learn from them that applies to your enterprise back home?
LEARN DIFFERENT STYLES OF LEADERSHIP
What are the different styles of leadership you might learn in other countries? That’s for you to find out! Will you study in a culture that values teamwork and participation? Or will you learn first-hand about strict hierarchies?
Even if you don’t have a job during your study abroad semester, you’ll quickly learn your adopted country’s leadership culture. At school, in your host home, and among the friends you make, you’ll see how leadership plays out. Observe how others react. Take the valuable lessons you learn and apply them to your personal leadership style.
BECOME FLUENT IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE
As the world gets smaller and more connected, it’s more important than ever for business leaders to be able to communicate well. This includes communicating with peers, partners, investors, and customers all over the world. Sure, translation apps can help you. But they’re very literal and lack a more insightful human quality. Your foreign language classes at school teach you how to be fluent, but there’s no substitute for true immersion. When you live, work, and play in another language, you pick up subtle turns of phrases and idioms you can’t learn from Google Translate. What’s the popular Korean slang these days? What seemingly harmless words are offensive in Brazil? How do people complain about how tired they are in France?
Even in English-speaking countries, you’ll learn a lot. Australia, England, Ireland, and New Zealand all have unique ways of expressing themselves in what is otherwise a common language.
Finally, let’s be honest: being multilingual looks fantastic on your college applications and future job interviews!
NETWORKING AND OPPORTUNITIES
Networking is a numbers game. There are no two ways around it. You never know when you’ll meet the exact right person who can help you on your entrepreneurial journey.
Studying abroad opens a whole new world (pun intended) of people to know. Your host parents might work in your dream field. Living with them will open doors for you. The friends you make could be future entrepreneurial partners. Considering an internship during college? You now have a network of people in a whole other country who can hook you up.
Besides networking, you might find opportunities abroad that you can’t access in the U.S. Why work for a Toyota dealership in your hometown when you can work at Toyota headquarters in Japan?
FOCUS YOUR VALUES
You may think you’re an adventurous eater because you put Swiss cheese on your burgers instead of American cheese. But what happens when you’re thousands of miles from home and in the middle of a country that likes pineapple and sliced beets on their burgers? Still think you’re a true foodie?
Food issues aside, nothing forces you to do a little internal inventory like being outside your comfort zone. When you study abroad, you live in another country for months. You’ll have to adapt quickly, or else it’ll be a very long semester for you. This means examining why you feel the way you do. Trying things (mostly foods) that may otherwise seem repulsive to you. Learning a new ebb and flow of daily life, like afternoon siestas and long nights in Spain and Italy.
Most of all, you’ll have to learn how to work with people whose values and way of life seem to be the opposite of yours. By the time you get back, you’ll have learned more about yourself in a few months than most adults have in their entire lifetimes.
In terms of entrepreneurship, no business degree can substitute for the self-knowledge and intuition you’ll get by studying abroad.
HOW TO FIND A STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM
Have we convinced you to sign up to try studying in a foreign country? Great! Here are a few resources to get you started.
- CIEE. They offer 3 types of study abroad programs for high school students: summer abroad, semester abroad, or gap year. You can choose your program by focus (language, art, entrepreneurship, conservation, and more) or by country. (As of 2022, country choices are limited to most western European nations and Japan.)
- THINK Global School. Those of you who aren’t super-picky about where you go should consider TGS. They move their “school” to a different location approximately every 3 months, so students benefit from learning in 4 countries per year! However, this means that TGS is a commitment. It’s a full-time high school for grades 10-12 and only accepts students in 10th or 11th grade. TGS is like transferring schools rather than a short program.
- Where There Be Dragons. Learn Spanish in Guatemala. Study the culture and heritage of the Nepalese people in the Himalayan mountains. Immerse yourself in the music of Senegal. Sound dreamy? Where There Be Dragons specializes in short-term summer and gap year programs in non-traditional countries.
- Go Abroad. This site is an enormous database of study abroad programs. Search menus include dozens and dozens of countries (and Antarctica!), program types (from acting to zoology), and times of the year.
Get your passport, book your flight, and don’t forget your toothbrush! Safe travels!
Find out more about the Kantner Foundation’s commitment to young entrepreneurs, including our college scholarships for high school students, by clicking here.