Published: 21st March 2018
Living abroad leads to a clearer sense of self. Here's how
These reflections are helpful in discovering which values and norms define who people are and which simply reflect their cultural upbringing, according to the study
Living abroad can help people develop a better understanding of themselves and have increased clarity about career decision-making, a study has found.
Researchers found that living abroad increases "self-concept clarity," the extent to which individuals' beliefs about themselves are clearly and confidently defined and consistent and stable over time.
They conducted six studies involving 1,874 participants from online panels, and US and international MBA programmes, who then completed surveys on living abroad.
Researchers from Columbia University and Rice University in the US found living abroad triggers self-discerning reflections in which people grapple with the different cultural values and norms of their home and host cultures.
"Our studies demonstrate that living abroad affects the fundamental structure of the self-concept by enhancing its clarity," researchers wrote in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
While most research on foreign experiences has focused on whether people have lived abroad or not, the study takes a more nuanced approach to distinguish between the depth and the breadth of international experiences.
It found that depth (the length of time lived abroad) rather than breadth (the number of foreign countries lived in) enhances a clear sense of self. The longer people live abroad, the more self-discerning reflections they accumulate, the researchers said.
As a result, the more likely they are to develop a better understanding of themselves and have increased clarity about career decision-making, they said.
Understanding the impact of living abroad has practical implications for organisations as they operate across national borders and recruit foreign talent, the study found.