Syracuse Abroad recently held a small workshop on how to market a study abroad experience. The workshop mainly focused on how to market experiences that did not involve an internship, which may not be completely obvious to students. Detailed below are some of the main lessons from the workshop.
To begin with, most students do not put their study abroad experience on their resume when they should. For students who have studied abroad, the experience may seem commonplace, but it is still something under 10% of all US undergrads participate in. A study abroad experience is unique, and can set someone apart from other job-seekers. On a resume, it should be placed in the education section, either as a bullet under the main undergraduate institution, or as a standalone academic experience.
Even if a student’s study abroad program involves no internship, experiences on the trip can be relevant in a job interview or in a cover letter. Many job interview questions are personality-based in nature, asking the applicant to talk about how they think, how they work with others and how they operate under stressful conditions. Study abroad experiences can present challenges in all these situations and more. For example, the typical study abroad experience often includes “thinking on one’s feet,” “learning something new,” or “taking a risk” – all frequent question topics in interviews. Because students and recent graduates do not have an expansive professional career from which to draw anecdotes, in interviews they can mine their study abroad experiences. This is also true of cover letters, where it can be equally difficult for a recent graduate to link their experiences with the job’s qualifications. Here is a sample list of job skills that job-seekers who have studied abroad may possess:
- Language proficiency
- Intellectual curiosity
- Time management
At the same time, if a student includes a study abroad experience on their resume or cover letter, they should be prepared for the interviewer to ask them about it. For example, the interviewer may ask the student why they chose to study abroad at all, or why they chose the country they studied in. Students should be ready to answer in way that reflects positively on their decision-making skills, and not be caught flat-footed.
Leveraging a study abroad trip can also begin during the trip itself. In order to make the trip a mindful experience that one can talk fluently on afterwards, students are encouraged to keep a journal during the trip. Not only will this help students recall their experiences later, it will make them more observant during the trip and more articulate about their experiences later. Students should also be active in networking while abroad – and maintain that network when they return. This can prove to be an invaluable resource when looking for work in that country after graduation.
Lastly, some aspects of a study abroad trip are directly relevant to jobs. Students should not overlook the academic component of the trip, and how it intersects with the experiential dimension. If a student or recent graduate is finding work within their area of study, it can be useful to talk about how experiences outside the classroom enhanced their understanding of their area of study. Additionally, if the job is an international organization or diverse work environment, the intercultural skills gained in a study abroad experience will add value to the job applicant – regardless of what they studied or what type of job it is.