Living and working abroad is a dream scenario for many young North Americans. The allure of leaving home to travel the world, experience different cultures and see what they’ve only previously seen on television and their laptops draws thousands to cross borders every year.
And for a budding international business professional, the experience of working in different countries can offer invaluable opportunities to develop the types of skills and knowledge that don’t always come from a course or textbook.
Craig Atkinson, CITP, originally a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, began a six-month work term last year as an intern for the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva, Switzerland, while simultaneously completing a full-time master’s degree focused on international trade and economics. After the conclusion of his internship and studies, he was hired by ITC as a consultant.
I’ve been able to connect with people from all over the world. Working abroad has been important in cultivating my global network, and truly understanding where people come from in terms of their cultural backgrounds and perspectives on business.
At the ITC, Craig works as a part of a team supporting agriculture product sectors in developing-countries to overcome obstacles in accessing export markets.
“Our efforts are highly targeted toward what people are trying to achieve in terms of the economic and social development gains that are possible from interregional and international trading activities,” he says. “It’s very positive.”
While Craig says he isn’t experiencing any difficulties when it comes to culture shock in his surrogate home, he doesn’t deny that working abroad has its challenges. He says it can sometimes be difficult on your personal life, especially if you’re moving around and not staying in one place for very long. You also have to manage being away from your family and friends, and you need to create a lifestyle and a financial budget that works for you. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, he says.
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Craig has gained a lot from working abroad. He’s experienced living in international environments, working alongside people with varying practices and perspectives on international trade and development, and he’s surprised even himself with his level of adaptability.
“But I would say that the main thing this experience has done for me so far is to confirm that working in the field of international trade and development is exactly what I want to be doing with my life,” he says.
Craig plans to continue working in Geneva before eventually pursuing a second graduate degree or attending law school. And after that? He says he’d love the opportunity to someday work with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Have you spent time doing international business work abroad? How did the experience affect your growth and development as a professional?