Living Abroad is the Best Preparation for Career Success

living abroad

by Victoria Lynden

This summer, Alliance Abroad will send thousands of students from the U.S. and other countries to work in Australia. And when they return, simply by virtue of having lived abroad, they’ll be more creative, more innovative, better able to devise solutions to problems than they would have been otherwise. Or, for that matter, than their fellow classmates who stayed home, according to a lot of recent academic research. With a global economy driven by innovation, they’ll be primed for career success.

living abroadProfessor Adam Galinsky and William Maddux of the Kellogg School of Management conducted creativity tests on people who had lived abroad vs. those who hadn’t. Their research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed ones who lived abroad were better problem solvers and demonstrated more creative insight than the other students. The researchers theorized that’s partly because they had to adapt to a different culture. In fact, when asked to share stories of their time abroad, at the same time students who hadn’t traveled recounted stories of some other learning experience in a new place, the travelers were far more creative after the exercise…as evidenced, apparently, by their ability to draw cooler space aliens. But that’s not the point. The point might be that when students were asked to negotiate a solution between a buyer and seller with incompatible price points, the ones who had lived abroad were better able to negotiate a solution that worked. And if there’s anything that helps with career success, it’s being able to negotiate.

Students who have lived abroad are far better prepared for a global, multi-cultural business world. I’ll grant you that Australians speak English, which makes the transition easier for native English speakers. But their culture and way of communicating is different. For example, Americans tend to share how hard they worked to get something done in order to gain appreciation. Australians are more likely to de-emphasize the work they did, to gain appreciation by showing how easy it was for them to accomplish it. These and other differences force students to stop and think consciously about the way they operate with people of other cultures, rather than just accepting that the American way is the “right” way.

Living abroad fosters a sense of independence and adaptability, and prepares students to take on challenges they might not otherwise have approached. According to the Graduate Management Admission Test site, employers look for candidates with international experience for that very reason.

Finally, I’ve talked to hundreds of these students when they’ve returned from a summer in Australia. Their lives were transformed. They had made new friends and discovered things about themselves and their capabilities and passions they might never have discovered in the comfort of their own culture and geography.

I can’t wait to hear the stories from this summer of living abroad.

living abroad

Living in Australia

Living in Australia

We asked an American (Erin) and a Canadian (Anita) working in Australia a few questions. Here is their perspective on living in Australia.

living in australia

Why Did You Come to Australia?

Erin: I was looking for a change when I made the decision to travel to Australia. I have traveled in the past and had only been to the Austral-Asia once in my life when I visited India. I went to school in Georgia, where we received many study abroad students. During my first year, I meet a student who was studying abroad from Melbourne. We became best friends and he even taught me how to play basketball and stayed with my family for a couple weeks before returning to his hometown Melbourne, Australia. He told me everything about the city, country and people, which was later built upon by other Aussies I met on the road throughout my travels. We kept in touch and I told him that one day I would meet him over in Australia and then I would go visit what I called “The Big Rock in the Middle”, actually named Ayers rock. (This I will be doing in October!) We hadn’t seen each other since he left in June 2009, until I decided to make my move to Melbourne after finding an amazing opportunity to work with Alliance Abroad International! I left a month after accepting the position and headed over to “The Most Livable City in the World’.

Anita: Adventure, exploration and more sun!! I’ve been wanting to come to Australia for the last 5 years and finally decided that a visit, a short stint nor a long backpacking trip, wouldn’t cut it. After learning about the amazing possibilities of a working holiday visa, I jumped at the chance and moved to Melbourne with the excitement of finding a job, place to live and friends! It’s been an unbelievable experience so far.


living in australia

Erin: There are so many amazing things about this country and they all differ from region to region. The thing I enjoy the most, and seems to be relevant to all parts of Australia, is the Breakfast culture. Or in Aussie slang “Brekkie”. Aussies have a wonderful tradition of taking time to catch up with friends, drink an Australian coffee (or two), and eat some creative dishes at unique cafes for brunch.

Coming from a family where breakfast has remained a staple in our daily lives, I appreciate this tradition. Even within this there are small differences that I think any traveler would notice.

living in australia

Australian’s always order poached eggs. This will always be the norm, so if you want your eggs scrambled, fried, or boiled make sure you tell you waitress!

Every breakfast joint has a vegetarian, dairy free, and gluten free options…. In Melbourne I think its safe to say that half the menu will normally reflect this cultural difference!

For all you non-vegetarians: Bacon becomes a real piece of meat. They serve it thicker than in my country!

Avocado Smash will always and forever be one of my favorite Australian dishes! (Avocado, goats cheese, and lemon juice mashed together and spread over toast) Scrumptious!

Anita: The friendly people and delicious food culture. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to meet many people from diverse backgrounds over many scrumptious meals all over Australia!!

Most surprising thing about Australia?

living in australiaErin: The Ultimate Frisbee Network! My co-worker Anita and I both came over from countries where Ultimate Frisbee is a popular sport. I never imagined that it would be just as big, if not bigger here in Australia. My Ultimate Frisbee seasons have become one of my favorite and most surprising experiences in Australia. I have accumulated memories and friendships that will last forever. I was invited one morning to a pick up game by a roommate of mine and ended up later playing for two separate teams in the division and also participating in 4 tournaments while in Melbourne. I am even going off to volunteer for Australian University Games in September while staying with my Frisbee team from Melbourne, RMIT Red Backs! It seems as though Australians really appreciate sports and getting outdoors!

Anita: I’m still surprised at how so many words are shortened or has a nickname/slang equivalent in Australia!! The slang is so fun – Like how biscuits (2 syllables) are “shortened” to bikkies (still 2 syllables)….

One thing you would recommend doing to any visitor?

living in australiaErin: I would definitely recommend not only going to an Australian Rules Football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), but also picking a team to support! Our Director here in Australia recruited me early to his favorite team, the good ole Carlton Blues. I went to a few games with his family and then got really into the sport after moving to Richmond, where the MCG is located. In Melbourne, the teams are based off of different suburbs around the city and have historical and traditional fan bases. They all have different rivalries and each family has a history connected to AFL. It’s exciting to follow the sport throughout the season and makes a trip to the stadium even more memorable! If you can’t decide on a team to support, go ahead and pick the best, GOOO CARLTON!!

Anita: Eat your heart out

living in australiaYou know you’re an Aussie when…


  • You check the AFL app on the reg.
  • Begin nicknaming all of your friends without realizing it.
  • Say “Yewwwww” after anything you agree with!
  • Meet three friends in a day for coffee at different cafes
  • Your drink of choice is 4xxxx Gold, VB, or Carlton Draft.
  • A kangaroo hops by and you don’t even think twice.
  • You start giving directions about public transportation to confused travelers on the street.
  • You start eating like an Iron Man and a having a Golden Gay Time means something to you!
  • You lick an Ants Butt!


  • There’s a nickname for everything
  • You’re not afraid of spiders
  • You like snow and cold

Best looking Aussie

Erin: Liam Hemsworth…was that even a question?

Anita: Julia Gillard (just joking!) Eric Bana!

Beam me up... Eric Bana plays the bad guy in Star Trek liam

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