5 Ways Studying Abroad Can Help Your Career

By: Jess Savarese, THON/Philanthropy Chair

“So you spent this past semester abroad, that’s great! Can you tell us more about it?”

On the surface, an easy question that should give you plenty to talk about in an interview if you are studying/have studied abroad.  But beyond the generic response, “I had an incredible time and loved every second of it,” this is your unique opportunity to sell yourself.  Impress the employer by articulating the experiences so integral to your time abroad that you didn’t even realize how much you were truly learning. While it may feel as if it was a semester-long vacation (because, well, it was), there were still ample lessons that couldn’t be learned sitting in a lecture hall.  As a starting point, here are five ways studying abroad has undeniably broadened your horizons.

Independence
It may be an obvious one, but independence is necessary when you’re bravely moving to an entirely new country.  Whether it’s your first time navigating alone in a big city or planning a weekend trip for you and your friends, you’re exhibiting initiative without anyone needing to look over your shoulder.  Discuss the time you researched and planned an itinerary for your trip to Rome.  On top of the leadership skills developed, it also showcases your organizational skills.

Adaptation
The language, food, daily routines; the list goes on.  Chances are it’s different from what you’re used to.  Similar to a workplace, the environments you expose yourself to abroad will require some degree of adaptation.  Did you live with a host family who showed you a new way to communicate in their culture? Adaptability and flexibility are important to have for work environments that can undergo change at any given moment.

Problem Solving
There will inevitably be times where roadblocks stand in the way of your plans.  It could be anything from trying to ask for directions in Spanish to compromising on travel plans with friends who want to sightsee in different places.  An employer will value your ability to quickly find solutions to any problems that arise.

Cultural Awareness
Living in a country that operates differently from your own challenges you to think differently.  Your ability to recognize and accept these differences allows you to understand and appreciate alternative ways of living.  Being exposed to cultural differences makes you well rounded and instills empathy and respect for members of all backgrounds in the workplace.

Interpersonal Skills
Just when you finally feel settled in your niche of college friends, your semester abroad uproots you and throws you into a program with new students coming from all over the world.  Before you know it, you’re making friends with a classmate who attends your rival state school.  Even outside of class, you learn to feel comfortable asking store workers questions in their language and talking to strangers sharing hostel rooms with you in the city you’re visiting.  This highly valued skill can carry you a long way not only in landing the job, but also for the rest of your life.

Image credit: nsemo.org

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