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Acquiring Global Leadership Skills Through High School Study Abroad

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SPI Study Abroad

It’s no secret that studying abroad is one of the most fun academic learning experiences that a person can ever hope to have (to this day, my own study abroad experience in France remains one of my favorite periods in my life!). After all, what could be better than soaking up an exciting new language and culture while living in a foreign country, making lifelong friends, indulging in the local cuisine, traveling—and all the while, getting credit for your coursework? It just doesn’t get much better than that!

But, most importantly, study abroad is a surefire way to acquire some serious global leadership skills—and, as a high school student, there’s no better time than now to start attaining these skills! You may already be aware of this, but the truth is that global leadership skills are all the rage these days (to college admissions boards alone, these skills are like gold!).

So, first, let’s define what I mean by ‘global leadership’. Then, let’s discuss how your high school study abroad journey can help you become a true global leader.

What is Global Leadership?

Global Leadership could most simply be defined as the ability to demonstrate leadership skills in a cross-cultural, global context. Global leaders possess in-depth knowledge of other cultures, are proficient in a foreign language or two, and have a worldview that’s larger than just their own backyard. All of this enables them to analyze and make decisions through a globally-sensitive lens—something that has become highly important in today’s world. And of course, studying abroad is one of the best ways to become a better global leader. Here’s why:

1. After your study abroad experience, you’ll have become much more independent and confident.

There’s nothing quite like being thrust into a brand-new way of life to help imbue you with a strong sense of independence. I’ll never forget the first time I stepped onto the tube in London (as a small-town girl from Oklahoma, this was my first time using public transit)—the thrill of figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B (something so simple!) gave me the most rewarding sense of accomplishment. Navigating an unfamiliar bus system, successfully ordering a meal in another language, learning how to take care of yourself in a new environment—all of this does absolute wonders for your confidence level (which isn’t exactly at its peak in high school, as all teenagers know).

SPI Study Abroad

2. Study abroad helps you to realize that your own culture is not the center of the world.

This may seem a bit self-evident—but, the fact is that you just don’t quite realize this to be true until you’ve experienced another language and culture firsthand. Learning all the ins and outs of other cultures enables you to have a finer, more nuanced understanding of the world at large (and, perhaps most crucially, helps prevent harmful stereotypes about the way other people live!). It’s this understanding that allows you to have a deeper global context for most everything you encounter in life. Global knowledge and awareness, in-depth familiarity with other cultures—that’s what global leadership is all about!

3. Study abroad is the only way to truly learn another language.

Gregg Roberts said it best: “Monolingualism is the illiteracy of the 21st century.” In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly important (and even required) that high school graduates have a working knowledge of at least one other language that isn’t their own. After all—being able to communicate with millions and billions of other people on the planet not only helps with your job prospects, but also allows for a better understanding of the world and its inhabitants. And studying abroad (i.e., really becoming immersed in another language and way of life) is truly the only way to become fluent in another language—so, what are you waiting for?

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Written by Justine Harrington

Justine Harrington serves as the Admissions Director for SPI Study Abroad, a leading provider of summer language immersion programs for high school students. From her very first time abroad (a life-changing trip to Argentina when she was 16), Justine was incited to learn as much she could about the world and its cultures. This passion for travel and global learning soon led to her participation in multiple study and volunteer abroad experiences.

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