7 Reasons to Join a Global Immersion Program

If you’re not reaching your goals, it might be time for a change of scenery.

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Heather R. Huhman
The Roman philosopher, Seneca, once said, “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

While that quote might be just under 2,000 years old, it’s no less true now. Travel is important and valuable for everyone.

While studying abroad and backpacking through Europe are traditional trips college students and new graduates take, global immersion programs are growing in popularity.

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If you’re unsure of what a global immersion program is, it’s an extended trip to a foreign destination (think South Africa and Mumbai, not London and Paris) in which participants can work, volunteer, study, and live within a community in a different culture.

Here are seven reasons you should join a global immersion program:

1. Everybody’s doing it. Experiential learning abroad is on the rise. More and more young people are electing to travel abroad during school or after graduation. Today, global immersion is so much more than studying abroad. Depending on the program, participants can work, study, shadow, or volunteer to gain experience.

2. It’s better than backpacking. Sure, your friends may be headed off to backpack around Europe after graduation, but what do they really have to look forward to, and how can they promote their experience to future employers? While they may have to be flexible in their travels, meet a diverse group of people, and no doubt room in some questionable hostels, do they have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on a community or get the chance to become part of a family abroad?

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3. Get inspired. Have you ever felt like you were simply spinning your wheels and not going anywhere? It’s not uncommon, especially for new grads. If you’re not reaching your goals, it might be time for a change of scenery.

4. Instant personal growth. What other opportunity can you think of that allows you to experience such tremendous personal growth in as little as six, eight, or 10 weeks? Sure, you may have extensive travel experience, but how often do you get the chance to work alongside members from another community sharing in their challenges, triumph, and defeats.

In some programs, participants can be immersed in the culture from day one by taking part in cultural experiences like preparing food, collecting firewood, and washing clothes alongside their host family, all the while taking careful note of what life is like in their new community. Being exposed to new ways of thinking will allow you to take a step back and experience personal growth and independence.

5. Gain confidence. There is nothing like a solid challenge to build your self-confidence. Traveling abroad for an extended amount of time is a huge accomplishment for just about anyone. Whether it is a fear of failure or taking risks, challenging yourself to face new problems can often times yield the most rewarding experiences.

6. Become a world affairs extraordinaire. Where else can you begin to match Hillary Rodham’s Clinton knowledge of world affairs? Abroad, you will also learn how others view the United States and challenge your current thought-processes.

[See 8 Reasons to Continue Your Holiday Job Search.]

Once you’ve returned home, your upcoming job search will be influenced by the things you’ve learned, making you so much more attractive to international companies.

7. Gain an extended family. In many global immersion programs, participants have the opportunity to room with others or live with a host family. This is the ultimate way to network and get out of your shell (if you so need to be de-shelled).

Thanks to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, your new global connections can become permanent. You never know who has the power to change your life forever.

What do you think? Have you participated in a global immersion program? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.