Have you caught the travel bug and desire to travel to new places, whether it is through studying abroad or just traveling in general?  If you’re on the fence and want to know why you should take the leap and just do it, I have it for you –the importance of intercultural communication.  In today’s society, the importance of intercultural communication in the workplace is rising because everyone is interconnected to others around the world.  The world is full of different cultures and customs.

In a Middlebury Language Schools blog, intercultural communication is defined as “the capacity to communicate with people from diverse cultures.”  Many businesses in the United States have offices worldwide, such as Amazon, Google, Apple, and Marriott International, to name a few.  It is great that these companies offer employment internationally. However, just because the company is American does not mean the office is American.  This is where intercultural communication comes in.  Americans working at Apple in France will likely experience differing cultural norms, which is why studying abroad can help.  Hannah Durevall from Flair mentions that “we don’t often realize that [people’s] ways of doing things are often cultural in origin or even specific to our personal background– there are actually multiple ways of doing things.”  Going abroad in college helps students realize that people from different cultures and backgrounds have certain ways of getting tasks done. This is not only eye-opening but also helps prepare you for jobs where you will likely work with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Moreover, studying abroad is a fantastic way to gain an understanding of different cultures, which will help with intercultural communications once you graduate and enter the workforce.  Studying abroad forces you to step outside your comfort zone and plant yourself in a foreign country. If you are not going to an English-speaking country, you must learn to communicate in a different language.

Living and attending school in a different country teaches you about societal norms and values that may differ from your own home country.   While you integrate into the host country, whether it is Denmark, Czech Republic, or even England, to name a few, you will “have a better understanding and appreciation for the nation’s people and history… [and] will have the opportunity to witness a completely new way of life,” according to an International Student article.  When you go abroad, it likely is your first time being in a different country, and nothing is familiar to you, which can be scary and exciting all at once.  This is when you learn first-hand that you are a citizen of the world.  Studying abroad makes you appreciate where you come from and illustrates that there is more to explore in the world.  It also opens your eyes to why diversity matters where you work, either now or in the future because everyone brings something different to their jobs, which helps the company succeed.

Now, let’s suppose you have not had the opportunity to study abroad in college. In that case, simply traveling the world is another option to help you learn about new cultures and step outside your comfort zone. Munira Maricar mentions that traveling can enhance your problem-solving skills because “when you are in a new place, you will have to deal with unexpected situations, and this can help you develop the ability to think on your feet and make quick decisions.”  Employers want to see you think quickly and solve issues when they arise, which is so important.

Traveling also comes with getting lost, where you need to ask a stranger for directions on how to get somewhere.  Language barriers can be a problem, but it always works out because you can show them the desired location on your phone, and they can point you in the right direction. Trust me, it works because I have done it many times. In Reims, France, last May, I had to do this because I could not find my hotel, and a man could tell I was looking for something, so he asked how he could help.  He didn’t speak that much English, and I didn’t speak that much French very well, so I showed him where I was going on my phone, and he was able to show me how to get to my hotel. Lastly, it always helps if you learn the language of the country you are going to, even partially, because it shows that you respect their language and country. In Paris, I bumped into an Irish woman who used to be a French teacher and was now living in Paris, and she gave me this advice.  I wish I knew to do this before going to France because I could have learned some phrases.  I am heading to Spain this year and using Duolingo to brush up on my Spanish-speaking skills.

Intercultural communication is an essential component in most organizations today.  Studying abroad and traveling helps you appreciate diverse backgrounds.  So get out and explore the world and its diverse people and cultures.