When I was 24, I got a job offer to work in Naples, Italy. The only problem, as far as my mother was concerned, was that there was a cholera epidemic there at the time. Our local newspaper was full of morbid details about the 22 deaths. She tried to stop me going but failed. I got the vaccination and off I went. It was an adventure that was so exciting and unforgettable that I am still living in Italy and will never leave it now. So, what are the reasons why you should work abroad in your 20s if you get the chance, like I did?

1. It helps to build your character

I was facing an enormous challenge. I had to drive a long way through Europe. I was a novice as regards driving in Naples, which was hair-raising but liberating! I had to cope with a new language as I hardly knew any Italian. I had to walk into a new job and learn to get on with a variety of unforgettable characters. I cannot think of a better character-building exercise.

2. It opens up new career paths

I had always wanted to be a teacher but teaching English as a foreign language was a new challenge. I had done some initial training in London, which really helped me to get started. While in Naples, I was stimulated to study for a Diploma, which was an essential career building block. I was also lucky enough to win a scholarship to study for a Masters in Linguistics. Having worked abroad can give you the extra edge when you start applying for jobs later on.

3. It can broaden your mind

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

There is no doubt about it. Travel widens your horizons in every sense of the word. Experimenting with new cuisine, seeing exotic locations and wonderful works of art all add to your personal development and education. I met new people who enriched me enormously.

4. It can help sort out stereotypes and perceptions

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley

We all grow up with certain preconceived notions about national stereotypes. These are the result of our education, religious views, racial origin, family upbringing and our gender. We expect to meet disorganized Italians, cold Scandinavians and aggressive Africans. These stereotypes can turn into prejudice, which is risky. Travel will soon dispel these notions because you may well meet the friendliest Scandinavian you can imagine. I quickly learned to question and discover more about Italians before rushing to any conclusions.

5. It encourages you to take risks

“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” – George Bernard Shaw

Taking risks while you are in your 20s is much less dangerous than later on. There are also loads of opportunities now. I took a risk moving to another country, learning a new language and giving up a pensionable job in a boring, Irish town. My mother never really forgave me for giving up that pension. But the new opportunities, experiences and enrichment of my life more than made up for that. I was right in thinking that I would never get the chance again. Once you settle into relationships and a career, moving abroad becomes a gigantic task.

6. It enables you to see all those places you dreamed about.

7.  It helps you sort out what you really want from life

Being stuck in one place in your early 20s is not going to do your creativity much good. Yes, you may be able to escape for holidays, but that is not the same as making out, organizing living quarters, finding a job, and seeking new relationships. All these exercises help you decide what you really want from life.

8. It can do wonders for your cooking

“The most sincere form of love is love for food.” – George Bernard Shaw

I loved eating out and being invited to sample Italian food. People always talk about food in Italy and it is a sign of great culture. Soon, things caught up with me as I had to start inviting people back. That was how I learned to cook. It also laid the foundations for a healthy diet and has been instrumental in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let us know in the comments where you would like to work abroad and why. Your stereotypes are in for a rough ride!

Check out: Why Moving Abroad is the Best Work Hack Ever

Featured photo credit: Mount Vesuvius/Glen Scarborough via flickr.com

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