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Career Development and Study Abroad
Study Abroad can add much to developing your career path. Employers like students who study abroad (pdf). If you plan to study abroad, we have some things to look into if you want the experience to help your career development. Already spent time abroad? Learn how to showcase your experience to employers!
Plan to Study Abroad?
If you know you want to go abroad, why not use that to your advantage to have an experience that can be applied to your professional resume? Here is a list of things to take some time thinking about before studying abroad:
- How will your study abroad program add valuable skills and interests to your resume? For example, you could enroll in culturally based and/or communications classes that highlight these skills.
- Is learning a second language an important goal? Spending time in a place where that language is used is a good way to improve your language competence.
- Are you planning to work with a specific culture in the future? Perhaps the option of living with a host family instead of in a university residence hall is better for you.
- Looking to combine gaining work experience and studying abroad? Some programs offer internships. See if you can find one that suits you! In addition, all University of Minnesota students can use Goinglobal, an international job/internship resource. Just log-in through GoldPASS powered by Handshake.
Studied Abroad Already?
Even if you did not go into your study abroad experience focusing on how study abroad will help your career, there are things you can do after the fact to improve your candidate profile. Specifically, you can look at the Top 10 Skills and Qualities Employers Seek in Job Candidates:
- Work in a team structure
- Make decisions and solve problems
- Plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Communicate with people inside and outside the organization
- Obtain and process information
- Analyze quantitative data
- Demonstrate technical knowledge related to the job
- Use computer software proficiently
- Create and/or edit written reports
- Sell to or influence others
Source: Job Outlook 2014, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Chances are, the top 5 are all qualities you may have developed or improved during your study abroad experience. Your next step is to understand how to communicate these skills to potential employers. You can add content to your resumes, cover letters, and interviews!
Edit Your Resume
If you have studied abroad, you may be wondering how to showcase all of the skills discussed above on your resume. Below are some examples of how to include study abroad in two different sections of your resume.
The Education section lists your college academic history. If you wish to elaborate on your international experience here, there are a few ways it can be done:
Example 1 - Title with description
Study in England Programme, University of Worcester September 2013-May 2014
- Studied British culture and history with students from England
- Participated in classes discussing local photography styles
Example 2 - Title without description
Study in New Zealand, University of Waikato March 2014-June 2014
Example 3 - Short term program
History and Soccer, Study Abroad, England January 2014
- Studied the rise of the world’s game through the lens of the British Industrial Revolution
The experience section is where specific paid and volunteer positions may be highlighted to showcase your relevant skills to employers. If you have had an experience while abroad, there are certain things that can be highlighted in addition to the details of the position:
The following examples are adapted from a handout (pdf) by Kalamazoo College Center for Career and Professional Development
Example 1 - Special projects with description
Integrative Cultural Research Project, Cáceres, Spain September 2013-February 2014
- Researched the education of the English language in various secondary school classrooms, including an English language for business and marketing class
- Collaborated with another international student in the development and teaching of lesson plans
Example 2 - Employment experience
Intern, Office of the Mayor, Clermont-Ferrand, France August 2014-December 2014
Mission des Relations Internationales
- Supported the administration of sister-city projects in Anglophone countries
- Facilitated the organization of a celebration for more than 500 visiting International Students
*Depending on the experience, it might be appropriate to place examples such as these in an Activities or Projects section.
Add Study Abroad to Your Cover Letter
When it comes to a cover letter, it is possible to elaborate more than on a resume. This is where you are able to share those life changing experiences and skills you gained while abroad! Here are some tips from one of our former Peer Educators on how to add study abroad to your cover letter.
- It is important to tie academic work and group projects from your schooling abroad.
- Explain projects and assignments from school, including different team or report types.
- Highlight your newfound independence skills, as well as explaining your ability to be adaptable, flexible, and how to perform well in unfamiliar environments and settings.
Incorporate Study Abroad Experience into Your Interviews
Any interview with an employer or grad school admissions representative is going to be your best chance to share stories from your time abroad. No matter what, anything you say in an interview must have a purpose. Here are some tips from one of our former Peer Educators on how to discuss your time abroad with your interviewer.
- If you think some of your greatest achievements or largest obstacles are from your time abroad, definitely mention those moments by describing an example.
- Have a couple of stories ready to tell that can shed light on your skills.
- Make sure your stories are detailed and succinct; do not ramble.
- Show your excitement when you are talking about your experiences. Employers tend to like people who show their personality during an interview.
If you are looking for more examples of how to highlight your international experience to employers, here are some additional resources that could be helpful. These resources vary; feel free to check them out!
- Every person’s international experience is different. Stop by Career & Internship Services or the UMD International Education Office to discuss your specific experience and how to market your unique self!
- Abroad Adventures - Peer Into Your Career blog, UMD Career & Internship Services
- All Things International - Pinterest Board, UMD Career & Internship Services
- After you return - UMD International Education Office
- How to market your international experience (pdf) - UW-Madison Letters & Science Career Services
- Define your experience for employers (pdf) - UMTC Learning Abroad Center
- Linking undergraduate international experiences to your future careers - UMTC Learning Abroad Center