Valuable skills gained from international experiences

I have worked, done internships and volunteered abroad several times. These experiences have been extraordinarily valuable for me on a personal level, but they have also given me some valuable skills when looking for a job. Below are a few of them – what skills have you gained from your experiences abroad?

Maaria Tirri

First and foremost: my language skills have improved immensely during my stays abroad. Through my stays abroad, my knowledge of English, French and Italian has become significantly better. This is amazing in itself but it has also proven useful in job interviews. Many interviewers have commented on my impressive set of languages. Often enough, my tasks have also been modified to better suit my language skills.

I have noticed that I have become more flexible and open-minded thanks to my international experiences. I have seen and experienced that things can be done in several ways; thus being too adamant might not be a good move. Having lived in foreign cultures I have had my fair share of situations where I could not understand my counterpart’s opinions nor could he understand mine. These situations lead to frustration at first – but also flexibility and broad-mindedness in the long run.

I often think about my discussions regarding polygamy and sexual minorities with locals in Senegal, where I volunteered three years ago. I find that it is easy to have a certain opinion when living in a bubble where everyone agrees with you. When that view is then challenged and people with opposite views to yours surround you, it does change your perspective on things. Nowadays I give myself a few moments to think before I tell what my thoughts are on a certain matter. Often enough, my response is something in the lines of ”It can be seen from many perspectives” or ”I understand where you are coming from”.

In other words, I have learnt to be diplomatic and I am now quite good at not hurting people’s feelings with inconsiderate comments. This was especially important during the presidential elections in Senegal in 2012. During that period I tried to be very careful with my comments about politics, since the situation was quite volatile. I have found this aptitude to be very useful in work environments. Often enough things can be said in numerous ways, and I try to choose the most diplomatic of them. Win-win!

Thanks to my stays abroad, I am additionally quite good at being independent and self-directed. I am used to taking charge of things on my own and setting up goals and tasks for myself. Often enough nothing is going to happen abroad if I don’t make it happen – whether it’s applying for a scholarship, finding travel companions or finally going to a French discussion club. In today’s world of freelancers, working at home and doing independent projects this has become an important aspect of work life.

One of my most important lessons has been very simple. Through my international experience I have noticed the things that set us apart but also the great amount of aspects uniting us. I have for instance realized the universal importance of making eye contact, greeting people and smiling.

These also happen to be basic elements to a successful job interview.

Maaria Tirri is a content provider for Europass.

Text: Maaria Tirri
Photo: Maaria Tirri

Maaria Tirri has worked, done internships and volunteered abroad numerous times. These experiences have also given her some valuable skills appreciated in the labour market.


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