Are you passionate about travelling the globe? More and more students are studying abroad every year but are consistently unsure of how to use this experience to their advantage during interviews and job applications. I have been lucky enough to study abroad several times during my undergraduate career and feel that this experience consistently sets me apart from other candidates during interviews. It’s all about how you market it.
Students should highlight this experience on their resumes under the education section and always try to discuss the experience during interviews or professional networking sessions. If a recruiter or professional has been to that area of the world, the travel story serves as a common conversational point that strengthens your relationship. If not, recruiters may take interest in discussing travel in general or enjoy hearing about your experience in that country. Either way, it can’t hurt.
Studying abroad sets students apart because it shows that they can respect cultural distinctions, adapt to and thrive in new environments, embrace challenges, and think critically to solve problems. Next are some additional skills that students gain abroad that they should highlight in any professional interview.
Cross-Cultural Communication. Studying abroad teaches you how to communicate with people who speak many different languages and grew up in diverse environments. Most students in the United States do not get exposed to as many different cultures and types of people as students who leave the country. Studying abroad enables you to truly immerse yourself in a different culture and learn about all of the components that make it unique.
Additionally, you can gain much by discussing personal study abroad experiences with students who studied in different programs. My study abroad experience in Hong Kong was quite different than the experience of my friend who studied in Morocco, but communicating these experiences to each other broadened our perspectives and taught us values that are unique to different areas of the world.
Self Reliance. Students who live in another country must become completely confident in their ability to overcome obstacles. You face many unique challenges while living in a different country, particularly when language is a barrier and you must be responsible for your own decisions. I frequently got lost while traveling to different areas of Asia and never had texting or calling capabilities on my phone. I was completely responsible for getting myself out of those situations and figuring out where I needed to go. This experience taught me to be more observant and responsible for my personal safety.
Furthermore, you can no longer rely on your parents to solve problems for you when you are abroad. Your study abroad experience shows recruiters that you are a reliable adult who can take responsibility for your actions. This additional accountability while abroad often increases other positive characteristics, such as maturity and independence.
Awareness of Globalization. Being aware of other cultures and familiar with other country’s values is more relevant than ever as globalization intensifies and knowledge of other nations becomes increasingly expected in the workplace.
Most modern corporations have a global mindset and are more likely to hire someone who is passionate about other cultures.
Studying abroad can particularly enhance the resume of students preparing for careers in business, government, journalism, and international relations. When I apply for internships with a global emphasis, my passion for other cultures is evident by my participation in these travel opportunities. Many global employers are looking for bilingual candidates, so if you learned another language while abroad, you are on an even faster track to success.
I have found that recruiters are particularly intrigued by study abroad destinations that are less traditional, such as locations in Asia. I am a business major who has traveled to China and India, two incredibly powerful countries in the business world. Recruiters are always impressed that I aligned the places I have studied with my future career goals. Research your major and find out what locations are relevant for that career around the world and then go study there. What better way to relate to professionals in your desired field?
Studying abroad taught me a lot about Asian culture, but it also showed me how to communicate with diverse groups of people, lead teams of many distinct individuals, think critically, respect cultural distinctions, and become a confident and independent adult. All of these skills are relevant in pretty much every job, no matter the field.
If you market the communication skills you learned, self-awareness and responsibility you gained, and critical thinking skills that you enhanced while abroad to a potential employer, I guarantee that you will stand out more than students who didn’t get out of their comfort zone and experience the world.
By Courtney Clapper (BSBA ’16)