Study Abroad Tip: Dress to Impress … And Reap the Rewards

Lexa Pennington's picture

Students are not known to be the tidiest bunch out there. When each day, your date is only with the library and a stack of books, there is understandably a reluctance to dress up. Indeed, for those forced to wear school uniforms, there is probably a significant amount of relief in finally being able to cast of those uniforms once school life is final over.

Study Abroad Tip: Dress to Impress … And Reap the Rewards

Those studying abroad are perhaps even more at risk of falling into scruffier habits. The self-imposed uniform of travelers is usually a tatty tank top and a pair of flip flops. Those studying at the ‘University of the World’ may feel no obligation to wear shirts and ties, as it seemingly has no effect upon the agility of the mind and the retention of knowledge.

However, there are times when it is important for those learning abroad, to splash out and spruce up a little. Sometimes it is worth ditching the flip-flops and band t-shirt, and instead go for a suit and a bit of flash, perhaps even a luxury watch from an online retailer such as this.

Work wear has become scruffier in the West over the last couple of decades, as we are led by the example of the great entrepreneurs of our age: Mark Zuckerberg is rarely seen out of his grey t-shirt and hoodie (in actual fact, a uniform in itself), and when was the last time anyone saw Richard Branson don a tie? For better or for worse, in terms of education and the workplace, society is adopting the idea that outward appearance has less and less correlation upon quality of mind, content of character or work ethic.

However in other regions, particular in Asia and the Middle East, how one dresses, to a large extent, still determines how one is to be treated. When dressing untidily, you are seen to be saying that you do not care what people think of you. It is not so much that they do not respect you for dressing sloppily, more so that they do not believe that you respect yourself. Those who are naturally unkempt but want to be taken seriously may be indignant at the idea that they have to dress smartly for this to happen. However, a visitor to a country however cannot – and should not – try to change the culture. Instead, one needs to regard it as another lesson learned, another chance to view the world through a more global perspective.

Additionally, it can open doors. Education isn’t about networking in the conventional sense, but meeting and speaking to as many people in your field, exposing oneself to as many ideas, beliefs and schools of thought as possible, is as valuable (if not more so) than books, essays and journals. If speaking to those people requires sprucing up now and then, so be it.