Top 3 Skills I Gained From International Travel
I had the privilege of studying abroad in Cuba over the 2020 winter break and working abroad in Germany in summer 2021. Here are the top 3 skills I gained from my experiences away from home:
#1 - Confidence
From having to rent an apartment in a new country where I did not speak the language (did you know that most German apartments don’t come with a kitchen, and tenants are expected to bring their own?), to figuring out the public transportation systems, and buying groceries where every item had incomprehensible labels, I learned to build confidence in myself. When all of these things that felt so intimidating became a routine, it felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do. I would request days off from work to hop on a train to visit the nearby amusement parks and hiking trails, trying out new local restaurants. The best part about these family-owned restaurants (that didn’t even have a hint of English on their menu) was to point randomly and let myself be surprised at what would be served on my plate. The best discoveries are made this way. Overall, I know that if I did all of these things by myself and came out on the other side, there is nothing in my life I can’t accomplish.
#2 - Resilience
There was no doubt that I was often confronted with problems, miscommunications, and people who would try to take advantage of the tiny, naive, foreign female student. Scams were waiting for me left and right, nameless streets were taking advantage of my abysmal sense of direction, and my stomach was regularly losing battles with the local food. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, I had to be resilient when the only thing I could expect was the unexpected. Now it takes a lot more to make me feel discouraged when I have built myself up to be so resourceful in the face of the unknown.
#3 - A Humbling Sense of Self-Awareness
There’s nothing like putting your life into perspective than speaking to people whose lives are polar opposite. When I set out for Germany, I had brazenly assumed that my English could be used anywhere with no problem and help me through all my problems. Not only was that not the case at all since many people around me did not speak a lick of it, but I had to ask for a lot of language help from people who only learned German as their third, fourth, or fifth language.
My career also got put into perspective when I struck up a conversation with a necklace street vendor in Cuba. We connected over being both artists, but he told me that he had to make tourist art to make ends meet, since there was no market for the art that he wanted to make in Cuba. Looking at the necklace I bought from his stall always reminds me of the opportunities I have around me.
Every time I think back to my experiences abroad, I am reminded to stay humble and to keep my mind open, which I believe helps me go through life as a better version of myself.
Different countries had different lessons to teach me and enhanced my personal skills in unique and unexpected ways, and I cannot wait to see what new skills I will gain from my future travels.
Scilla Raymond-Gazave is a 4th year Illustration major in the College of Art & Design and studied abroad in Havana, Cuba in 2020 and did a summer internship in Germany in 2021.