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Living abroad helps you develop a clearer sense of self

In our increasingly globalised world, more people are choosing to live, work, and study abroad. Social science studies have shown that international experiences can enhance creativity, reduce intergroup bias, and promote career success.

In this article from Harvard Business Review researchers investigated whether and how living abroad transforms a person’s sense of self, specifically focusing on “self-concept clarity.”

Self-concept clarity refers to how well someone understands themselves, with a clear and confident definition that remains consistent over time. This trait is linked to increased well-being and job performance. The researchers conducted six studies involving 1,874 participants and found the following:

  • Living Abroad Enhances Self-Concept Clarity: People who live abroad tend to have greater self-concept clarity. This clarity can lead to better career decisions.
  • Depth Matters More Than Breadth: The depth of living abroad experiences (i.e., the length of time spent abroad) is more important than the number of countries visited. Longer stays abroad accumulate more self-discerning reflections, helping individuals better understand themselves.

In summary, living abroad can lead to a clearer sense of self, which has implications for personal well-being and professional choices. If you’re considering an international experience, it’s not just about the destinations you visit but the depth of your immersion that matters.

In Norec we support exchange programs from 6 to 18 months and we agree that you should stay for a while.