By: Natalie Batten
This past summer I was lucky enough to study abroad in Thailand. From petting elephants to snorkeling off the coast, this was an amazing experience. In addition to having the time of my life, it was a great learning opportunity to gain real-world experience.
The focus of our trip was communications and business and we had the opportunity to visit one of Ford’s Thailand offices as well as some local businesses. Here are seven of my biggest takeaways that will forever influence the way I operate in the working world (and everyday life).
1) The world is becoming increasingly globalized
If you are fluent in at least two languages and have travelled to several other countries then congrats, you’re ahead of the game and on par with most of the rest of the world. However, I am not one of those people. On my trip I was impressed by how many people spoke English fluently, especially in the workplace. In one sense, it makes it easier for us US students, but also puts us at a disadvantage. The rest of the world is becoming bilingual and we do not have as much of an incentive to learn other languages. Now that I’ve been on this trip, I’m going to take advantage and create opportunities for myself to become more globalized to help me in my future career. It is time for us to catch up to the rest of the world.
2) Always be willing to step out of your comfort zone
Flying my first international flight without adult supervision was the perfect combination of nerve-wracking and adrenaline filled. There were many moments on this trip when I felt like I couldn’t do what was being asked of me because it was so out of my comfort zone. When I arrived and found out that we had to take turns being the lead navigator for a day, I was extremely nervous. I had to reframe my thinking and with support from my group I was surprised by what I was able to achieve. Those moments built upon one another and by the end of the trip I was able to do things that I never imagined I could, such as navigating around Bangkok.
3) Be aware of different cultural customs and rules
One unique part of our trip was being able to visit local and global businesses. During these visits we talked to a lot of expats who are now working in Thailand. I found it really interesting to hear how they had to conform to the cultural differences in the workplace. Thailand values ‘saving face’ or in other words, not embarrassing anyone. If someone feels too personally called out in the workplace, it is common for them to leave and never come back due to embarrassment. That means for an expat, who is also a boss, guidance and feedback must be given in a more subtle way than what he or she may be used to.
4) Learn how to practice self-care
On a trip this long and busy, everyone had days where they felt burnt out and less willing to step out of their comfort zones. I quickly realized the importance of replenishing my energy, so I could continue to show up as my best self day in and day out. For me that meant taking a break every now and then, so I could have a little bit of time to myself even if it meant skipping a night out exploring. Some people replenish their emotional energy by being around others, so they took extra time to be social or to explore the country. After replenishing our energy, we were all able to notice the positive impact it had on our own attitude as well as the group dynamic.
5) Be prepared
As someone who is recently learning to be more organized, all of the planning this trip required was definitely frustrating at first. I just wanted to be there and figure things out as I went. However, I was able to appreciate the headaches I saved myself by planning ahead. It saved me money on plane tickets, stopped me from showing up to tourist attractions that were closed and allowed me to find some cool, new places to check out. It was also a great feeling to have less stress around plans. It made every day easier to know what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. This motivated me to be more organized in my everyday life so I can enjoy these benefits.
6) Be adaptable
Although I realized the power of having a plan, studying abroad also helped me realize the importance of adaptability and living in the moment. There were several situations where something unpredictable caused plans to change. One day our morning appointment took too long, so we did not have enough time to make it to the tour we had planned. As a group, we had to practice resilience and use creative thinking to come up with new ideas. This was good practice for the working world because as organized as you may be, sometimes life gets in the way so it’s important to have the skills necessary to adapt to the situation successfully.
7) Remember to be in awe of the world and see the goodness in life
Finally, this trip had countless moments that were filled with pure awe and gratitude for the beautiful world we live in and all of the amazing people out there. It inspired me to work hard and create opportunities for myself to make global connections and see more of the world. Even in the workplace when things seem to be turning routine, it’s important to find a way to make it interesting and remember why you wanted to have that career or work for that company in the first place. Always remember to stop and be grateful for the goodness around you.