When global studying pays off

Young people who want to work abroad could find it beneficial to enrol for a course in a foreign city, says Alex McRae
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Higher education is an increasingly international business and academic institutions tailor their courses to draw students from around the world. Students attracted by the prospect of international careers have a range of options, whether their ultimate aim is chairing a multinational company, working for an aid charity in a developing country, or simply backpacking around the globe, safe in the knowledge that there's extra cash to be made teaching English if funds run out.

Higher education is an increasingly international business and academic institutions tailor their courses to draw students from around the world. Students attracted by the prospect of international careers have a range of options, whether their ultimate aim is chairing a multinational company, working for an aid charity in a developing country, or simply backpacking around the globe, safe in the knowledge that there's extra cash to be made teaching English if funds run out.

One option, for postgraduates who dream of resolving the Third World's problems, is the Graduate Institute of Development Studies, which is closely connected to the University of Geneva. Here students from Africa, Latin America and Europe converge to spend two years gaining a doctorate in development studies. Students from countries as far apart as Chechnya and Uruguay learn together before heading towards international careers, in anything from the Red Cross to journalism.

The course is taught in French and covers issues such as sustainable development, economics and sociology in developing countries. But if students start with the rosy view that handing out cash and food will whisk away poverty and social problems, that is quickly quashed. Cecile Aubert, the Institute's communication officer, says that the course prides itself on teaching students to take a hard look at whether systems designed to help poorer countries actually work. "We try to see if international help is always helpful. The critical approach is really important to us." According to her, understanding international affairs involves realising that richer countries may not always have the right answers.

But you don't need a vocation to enjoy discovering more about another culture. Simply learning the language is another option. Over the past 50 years, International House has taught two million students a different language, and trained a third of the world's English language teachers. It is an enormous semi-charitable company which presides over language schools in 40 countries across the world. Many of the people who go to International House's evening classes are doing it for fun, or so they can order a beer in style when on holiday abroad. Others are postgraduates wanting to kickstart a flagging career, or the employees of companies with international links who need to brush up their schmoozing skills.

Richard Abrial, a charmingly dapper Frenchman who is director of sales and marketing at the company's London base, sees the ability to talk to foreign clients and colleagues in their own language as a courtesy with a massive boost in terms of building a business relationship. "English has such a dominance in the business world that people forget how important it is to speak someone's language. It says 'I like you, and I'm prepared to make the effort to speak your language'."

The most popular language is Spanish, with French in second place, probably because of the droves of Brits who pop over to the continent every summer. Some of these holidaymakers have longer stays planned. The company runs month-long intensive language learning holidays in several countries, including Spain, where you can stay with a local family and immerse yourself in the language and culture. According to Abrial: "Language is not just an accumulation of grammar – it reflects a culture. We use native speakers in our London classes, but there is a point when you need to go to the country if you really want to improve".

Over in Spain, International House trains hundreds of people about to set off on round-the-world trips, who want to gain a CELTA – a globally recognised certificate in teaching English as a foreign language. Once students finish their training, International House can help place them in a language school, so they can earn before setting off for foreign climes. "They can use their training as an insurance policy", says Anthony Owen, the company's marketing director in Madrid, "to get a job at almost any language centre anywhere in the world, if they run out of money or decide they want to stay longer. It's a responsible way of travelling." For hard-nosed business sharks, would-be aid workers and those who long to escape the rat race with just a rucksack, it seems that international study really does pay off.

Comments