by Sandi Ohman
Brazil … Berlin … Istanbul … London … Luxembourg … Madrid … Paris … Sienna…
Sounds exciting – learning in a new environment, seeing sites you’ve only researched on the internet, and making new friends! The Study Abroad experience is part of many students’ college experiences. There is a lot of excitement leading up to the experience, and most students are still excited once they are home. However, the dilemma can be how to use this experience for professional development or for the benefit of the job search once the student is back in the country.
Students will typically take classes while they are abroad, so they will have some tangible education, knowledge and/or skills that can more easily be demonstrated on a resume. It is the broader, intangible knowledge and skills that are harder to demonstrate. Some of the intangibles learned and experienced from a Study Abroad opportunity are:
- Exposure to working in an international environment
- Experiencing international cultures
- Learning a different language
- Learning in a different language
- Network of international contacts & friends
- Problem-solving skills in challenging situations
Other ways that a Study Abroad experience can be beneficial after the experience is over include:
Work Experience – A variety of departments on campus will employ students to work in their offices. Experience having lived and/or studied abroad can be desirable since there are bound to be international students that visit those departments. Some specific departments that have an international connection are: International Admissions, Study Abroad, Language Skills/Language Institute, Campus Visit, International Student Office, Housing, Diversity, and Career Services
Graduate School – International experience can help with admission to graduate schools in the U.S. and Abroad.
Scholarships – Scholarships exist that allow undergraduate students that have studied abroad and want to return to pursue graduate studies.
Job Search – International experience and educational study is recognized by companies with a global presence.
Additionally, Study Abroad experience can enhance your resume. This experience can be incorporated in a resume in a few different ways.
Summary/Objective Statement – This is typically where the writer will share with the resume recipient the purpose of that resume. Sometimes this can be a one sentence objective statement, and other times, a couple of sentences including skills offered to the company or position are more effective. Skills that can be mentioned here are language skills, working with different cultures, adaptability/flexibility, working in challenging situations, problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Education – Study Abroad experience can be mentioned on the resume in the Education section as a subsection under the college/university they completed the experience with or as a separate educational experience. Mentioning the classes or course of study completed while on Study Abroad could be done here as well.
Project Experience – Depending on the educational accomplishments, list project experiences (group or individual) and highlight them in this specific section.
Activities – As a resume becomes full with relevant experience, i.e. research and internship experiences, the study abroad experience might not be so prominent on the resume. The activities section can be a place to move Study Abroad experiences to, allowing for more room higher on the resume for more relevant experiences.
Take note that resumes should be customized, depending on the positions being applied to, by highlighting experience that demonstrates a good fit for the company and the position.
Experience living abroad has become an experience that many employers value. Companies that have a global presence appreciate international experience, since they have international customers and opportunities arise within the company to work and travel abroad representing the company. Government agencies have indicated their interest in candidates that have worked, lived or studied abroad, especially if the agency has any connection to homeland security, i.e. CIA or Department of State. Some graduates have found an unexpected career from their time studying abroad: teaching English as a second language, for example.
International experiences are definitely valuable opportunities – they broaden the perspective of the student at the time, but this experience can also give the intern or full-time candidate an extra point to market to an employer. That is a definite synergistic bonus!
Sandi Ohman is the Senior Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She has been with the university for over 9 years and has advised students in most all degree areas while in Career Services. Sandi brings additional experience having worked in the finance industry for over 6 years in her previous career. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida.