Travel and Networking; It’s All About Communication
By Angela Strohbeck
College Tourist West Coast Regional Ambassador.
Communication is an extremely broad field of study. From nonverbal to rhetorical to intercultural communication, there are so many areas to explore and focus on. The simple acts of being mindful and alert of everyday interactions would show how helpful it is to have the knowledge one attains as a result of this degree. One thing that further illustrates the value of a communication degree is the experience of studying abroad. The practical experience of living and studying abroad provides some of the most interesting applications of communication theory and research that you could imagine.
This past June, I had the pleasure of studying organizational and rhetorical communication on a unique, faculty-led study abroad program. My experience was not the typical semester or academic year abroad. Instead, I spent 25 days traveling to five different European countries with a group of about 40 graduate and undergraduate students and two faculty members of San Diego State University. While there are so many benefits, the most valuable aspects of this study abroad are interacting with locals, and networking.
Living Like a Local
While my particular study abroad made it a bit difficult to really understand life as a local, there are many others that give you plenty of time to explore a particular destination without a middleman. This is not to say it isn’t possible to live like a local in a short amount of time. All you need is the courage to approach locals and the communicative intelligence to approach the right ones. In my opinion, this whole idea of understanding and appreciating locals and their culture is what travel is all about. So throw out whatever it is that might be holding you back and dive into a new experience!
Locals can give you new, different perspectives and great tips and tricks about what is worth doing. They can tell you what is overhyped or underappreciated – and if you get to know them well enough they might even share some of the secrets they don’t want many tourists to know about! If you are respectful, open-minded, and unafraid of asking questions you can learn a lot about the local culture and even make some great new international friends.
Studying abroad is a great way to network with students from your own culture. Many semester and yearlong programs bring students from different schools together. While each program is different, there will always be an opportunity to make connections with others who will probably return to the states around the same time as you. In my case, I was lucky enough to participate in a program with both students and professionals in the same field. These are great personal and professional connections that will last a lifetime.
Networking opportunities are not limited to those who have enrolled in the same program as you. In reality, any interaction is an opportunity to network but it seems that networking among other travelers is rather common.
I met several people who I contacted upon arrival back home. I happened to meet a couple travelers of similar age while watching a soccer match in the lobby of my hostel in Luxembourg. After some conversation, I learned one had just graduated from University of Central Florida with a degree in sports marketing and had chosen to backpack across Europe to celebrate his graduation.
Having a chance to meet people in this scenario creates a very unique bond and if the situation is interesting enough it will be hard to forget connections like these. The key is to continue a relationship during your travels but especially once you have returned home.