Why Cultural Intelligence Makes International Students Valuable


July 26, 2021

What is cultural intelligence? 

Cultural intelligence encompasses the skill of working effectively in new and culturally diverse situations. It is the ability to relate successfully across cultures and fosters a creative and cohesive team dynamic. According to Forbes, cultural intelligence and cross-cultural skills are developed during experiential learning, including studying or working in a foreign country and experiencing a new culture. International students acquire these skills simply from choosing to study abroad and are therefore valuable assets to any team. Individuals with high levels of cultural intelligence are better able to blend successfully into any environment, allowing international students to thrive in the workplace. 


Cultural intelligence is not simply awareness of different cultural norms, but also the ability to work effectively with and relate to people and projects across a range of different contexts. 


What does it look like in practice?

Individuals that are culturally intelligent are able to understand the beliefs, values, attitudes, and even the body language of people from different cultures. International students use this knowledge and cross-cultural skills they develop through studying in a foreign country, to help them relate to individuals from other cultures and understand their behaviour better. Cross-cultural skills include relational skills (interacting with diverse groups), a tolerance of ambiguities and uncertainties, high levels of adaptability, and empathy. 


Culturally intelligent teams can understand alternative perspectives, as well as the different beliefs, assumptions, and values of other cultures. As a result, they are better able to effectively communicate their own personal points of view and resolve conflicts more productively. Such skills allow culturally intelligent individuals to overcome divides and boundaries. Cultural intelligence also brings a huge business advantage, especially for businesses wishing to expand globally, or working with cross-border clients. Being able to pick up on cultural sensitivities can help close deals for businesses.


Indicators of cultural intelligence may include strong general communication skills, the ability to speak foreign languages, being culturally sensitive during an interview, and experience studying and/or working abroad. International students are well equipped to demonstrate most, if not all of these indicators during the application process and should stand out as valuable assets to most firms.  


Why is cultural intelligence important in a workplace?

Problem-solving requires a strong team effort, so solving problems across cultural boundaries via effective collaboration and communication is vital for any place of work. Culturally diverse teams see problems from new perspectives, which fosters innovation and development. 


Many businesses are global, as they have taken advantage of the advancements in communication technology. Advancements in technology have allowed markets around the world to communicate and work together across physical and cultural boundaries without ever having to meet face to face. This trend could increasingly become the norm due to the rise of remote technology over the last year. 


Assets for Global Expansion

Firms looking to expand into new regions and develop and build networks in foreign countries must have culturally intelligent teams in order to thrive abroad. This is also true for workers who frequently travel abroad to work. Cultural intelligence allows individuals to demonstrate a greater level of trust and understanding of diverse colleagues, improving collaboration and integration. 


Communication Skills with Cultural Empathy

While English is a global language, some points could be “lost in translation” across different cultural boundaries. Culturally intelligent individuals are competent and able to understand different tones, body language, and the context in another language. International students are well equipped to do this as they have experienced multiple different cultures and norms for prolonged periods of time. Because of these prolonged periods of time, international students have naturally developed intercultural empathy and can understand the perspectives of those from different cultural backgrounds. 


Overall, culturally intelligent employees are beneficial for firms everywhere, and in every sector. Employees with strong cross-cultural skills are able to bring in new clients, work effectively within a diverse team setting, and uplift the reputation of the firm.

Written By Anu Jain
Photo by fauxels from Pexels

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