Studying abroad offers many benefits. You can discover another culture, make friends, expand professional networks, travel, take required and elective courses, learn a language, and uncover information about yourself. Your study abroad experience can expand your horizons, provide you with interesting stories to share with others and make you more marketable to prospective employers.
I have such incredible experiences in my life.
Students often describe their study abroad experience as incredible and life changing but have difficulty explaining how their time abroad transformed them. Developing a habit of self-reflection can help distinguish your strengths and connect the dots of your experiences with your goals and plans for the future.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.
So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to envision your life, and then go backwards.
– Steve Jobs
Connecting the dots gives you the capability to draw upon your experiences that will shape your decisions for the future in your personal and professional life. Taking the time to digest your encounters abroad, while abroad and again upon return, will heighten your ability to connect the dots that shape your journey.
“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.”
How can you get the most from your journey?
- How can you preserve those activities that turn into memories, feelings and observations?
- How can you learn more about yourself and what you have learned?
- How can you explain these changes to others?
Developing a regular routine of self-reflection, “fitness for the mind” will enable you to take advantage of this powerful tool for life long growth, happiness and success.
Asking yourself a set of questions while studying abroad and recording your responses can help you gain insight into yourself and recognize the knowledge and skills you are developing.
Here are a list of questions for your reflection toolbox.
- What did I learn from today’s experiences (both positive and negative)?
- How did I adapt to new situations? How did I interact with others today?
- What challenges and opportunities faced me today? How did I handle them? Did I seek solutions to problems?
- How will these experiences strengthen me personally and prepare me professionally?
Get started with a notebook, journal or sketch book. Experiment with an app such as Notes or Pages, or choose a journaling app such as Day One, Diaro or Momento.
Connecting the dots of your journey and integrating all of your experiences can be challenging in and of itself. “Practice Makes Perfect” applies to the process of reflection. Making reflection a daily habit will improve your skills in self-awareness and goal setting.
You can’t knock on opportunity’s door and not be ready.
– Bruno Mars
Prepare yourself for your next opportunity by taking a look at what you have accomplished and what you have learned. Self-reflection is the first step in planning for your future.