Networking Tips for Students during International Travel
Traveling abroad is a great opportunity to hone your cross-cultural communications and build relationships that may benefit your academic advancement or future career. Here are a few tips for how to network when traveling or studying abroad, and how to build a great portfolio of contacts.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to People
Some countries have a reputation for disliking foreigners, but this is largely untrue. The locals are people just like you, and they’re often happy to chat with people and make new friends. While you should observe the usual courtesies when meeting new people, don’t be afraid to say hello to a stranger and get to know some interesting new contacts.
Have a Purpose
Networking isn’t all about making friends and having fun. You should have a purpose, whether it’s seeking contacts for career advancement or looking for a mentor in your industry. While you shouldn’t snub people who don’t suit your purpose, when you find those who do, you should be prepared.
Know the questions you want to ask, and try to let the conversation flow naturally toward your goals. While forcing it can feel awkward, you can still gently steer the conversation – or set up the opportunity for future contacts to further discuss your goals.
Show Interest in the Local Customs and History
Networking isn’t just about talking about yourself. If you show interest in the locals, they’ll also be interested in what you have to say. People love to talk about their home city, history, and traditions. Let the people you meet know you’re interested, and they’ll open up to you in ways that will create opportunities for long-lasting relationships that can benefit you on both the professional and personal level.
Ask for Contact Information
Even if you’ll be gone by morning, that doesn’t mean you have to lose touch. Always be ready to exchange contact information. You can exchange email and phone information, or business cards if you have them. Always be ready to exchange contact information in the medium the other person prefers.
Don’t forget to include your country code if you exchange phone numbers. You never know what country your contacts will be calling from, but they need to know how to reach you.
No matter where you travel, courtesy goes a long way. However, courtesy can mean different things in different countries. Just a few things to note:
- When in doubt, err on the side of pleasantry and politeness. Ignorance of local customs can often be smoothed away with a smile.
- Google major faux pas in the countries you’re visiting, and avoid them. For example, when visiting Japan remember not to walk on tatami floors in your outside shoes, and never stick chopsticks upright in your food.
- Don’t be afraid to apologize. If you step on someone’s toes by crossing a cultural boundary, “I’m sorry” is an easy way to defuse a potential conflict.
- Remember that even if you’re traveling for fun, you’re still representing yourself professionally. Comport yourself accordingly.
Learn How to ask “Do You Speak English?” in Multiple Languages
If you find yourself lost in a foreign country, attempting to express yourself in the local language may be troublesome. You may need to seek help from an English speaker, but you’ll need to be able to ask for someone who can understand you first. If you learn to ask “Do you speak English?” in the native language, even someone who doesn’t know English can point you toward someone who can help. Just make sure to also learn the words for “yes” and “no,” too.
Meet Other Travelers
Lastly, don’t confine your networking efforts to just the locals. You never know who you’ll meet as you pass through various cities. Other international travelers, particularly students, may be seeking the same sort of connections you are, and can be extremely valuable in your efforts to build an international professional network. Get to know your fellow travelers. You never know – one might just turn out to be the person who launches the next great stage of your academic career.