Your tickets are bought and you’re ready for the study abroad experience of a lifetime! While you’re in it for the adventure and education, this once in a lifetime opportunity will also look great on your resume and can be an excellent talking point during interviews.
Here are some ways to make your time abroad an experience that will demonstrate to potential employers why you are the best candidate for their company.
Immerse Yourself in Local Culture
Many countries have rich and diverse cultures, and most study abroad programs offer you opportunities to engage with locals and experience the culture first-hand. You can also go beyond what is offered and take the initiative to volunteer, join a local student organization or reach out to local experts in your field of study.
Through these immersive experiences your worldview will be expanded, and you will gain insight into communicating with individuals from different cultures and languages. Your flexibility and adaptability will also be challenged as you adjust to how people do things differently. Candidates with these skills and experiences are exceptionally beneficial to today’s global work force, and selling how your experience will contribute to an organization’s success is key when interviewing for a job.
Go Off the Beaten Path
Do your research and plan at least one trip that will take you beyond your comfort zone. Studying abroad is often times already a stretch for many people, but when living in your new country becomes a bit more comfortable take your adventure to the next level.
Embark on an overnight backpacking trip to remote villages, go to a homestay for the weekend or plan a getaway off the beaten path with friends. Whether it is traversing mountains or figuring out how to communicate with a family that doesn’t speak the same language as you, pick something that will provide you the chance to navigate a challenging situation and further develop your skill set.
Skills like teamwork, problem solving and communication will be necessary, and these are exactly what employers are looking for. When you talk about using these skills in a cross-cultural setting it will undoubtedly differentiate you from other candidates!
Take Your Coursework Seriously
While it is easy to get wrapped up in exploring a new country – or region of the World in many cases – remember you are there to study too! Make sure to not enjoy your time abroad at the expense of your GPA. Employers take GPA into consideration when looking at resumes, and you don’t want poor classroom performance to prevent you from being offered an interview. No interview means no opportunity to talk about your unparalleled experience overseas and how it will benefit the employer.
A lot is bound to happen while you’re living overseas and it’s worth reflecting on. Whether you take time on a daily basis, occasionally or only at the end of your time abroad, make sure you reflect on your experience and are able to talk about it.
What was challenging and how did you overcome it? What did you learn about yourself? What skills did you develop? How did your worldview change? How will your experience benefit your future employer?
Write your thoughts down, and incorporate them into the answers you prepare for interviews. Consider coming up with an “elevator speech” about your time abroad.
As organizations become more global, having international experience on your resume is becoming more important. However, going abroad in and of itself will not necessarily set you apart, it will be the ability to talk about your experience intelligently to a future employer that will make you stand out.