Studying Abroad: How it Impacts Employment

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-nLFpaEke8dE/UmWJb2DpWWI/AAAAAAAAGBk/ErelH1ZQ6GY/s1600/Travel1.jpgWhy is studying abroad so important?

Sure, you get to explore new places, make exciting international friends, and learn about another culture, but what about your future? Is it really all that beneficial in the long run?

The simple answer, in fact, is yes. Not only will spending a semester or a year abroad help you develop a more global perspective, it can increase yourpossibilities for future employment. We’ve all heard people say things to the effect of, “The main reason employers look for those with a college degree is because it shows you survived college. You can work towards a goal and keep priorities straight.” There’s some truth to that. However, if you study abroad, it not only shows you can “survive college,” it shows you can adapt to new environments without letting the adjustment impact the quality of your work.

http://dailytrojan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/study-abroad1.jpgEmployers look for someone who is willing to change and take risks, a person who is willing to try new things. They use words like innovative, creative, and inventive to describe their ideal candidates. Studying abroad is a great way to demonstrate these characteristics without having to “talk yourself up.” Anyone who is willing to throw himself/herself into unfamiliar terrain appears to be confident, curious, and accepting of challenges.

If you choose to study abroad, your resume will stand out from others. According to vistawide.com, only 4% of U.S. undergraduates ever study abroad, although the world is becoming increasingly more globalized. According to a recent study by IES, an association of 200 major U.S. universities, IES alumni who studied abroad earned $7,000 more in starting salaries than those who did not and that nearly 90% of students found their first job within six months of graduation.

In other words, you will have something that sets you apart, preventing you from blending into a stack of papers on an employer’s desk. An international experience makes you memorable and different. There could be fifteen people interviewing for the job you want, but you’ll be the only one talking about how you broadened your world-view when you spent a year in Peru studying economics, or a semester interning with a French newspaper.

However, a potential employer cares little about how many awesome friends you made or the super cool museums you saw. What they want to hear about are the skills you gained from the experience that are transferable to the job for which you are now applying. If you went with a group, talk about the valuable lessons of teamwork you learned. If you went alone, talk about the personal risks you took independently and how they impacted your experience. According to the Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development, Vol I – AIFS, a student should ask himself/herself the following questions in order to present a study abroad experience most effectively:

  • What skills did I learn abroad? What cross-cultural competencies did I develop?
    • Managing ambiguous situations
    • Problem-solving (transportation, school system, shopping in a foreign language)
  • How much detail do I need to provide on my resume to ensure that this experience has meaning to a potential employer?
    • Addressing misunderstandings in a respectful way
  • Where should I include this experience on my resume so that it will have the most impact and support what I am trying to communicate?
    • Practice telling a story that illustrates your new skills and include it in your cover letter or during an interview

Another important benefit of studying abroad is that it is the most effective way to learn a new language. With America becoming increasingly more diverse, many employers today look for those who have some proficiency with a foreign language, especially Spanish. Being able to speak another language also sets you apart from the competition simply because you will be able to complete tasks others cannot by using this skill. Not only that, but with the importance placed on “networking” today, you will have an advantage. You have the opportunity to develop a global network of resources while studying abroad by seeking out internships and volunteer work. Remember, it’s all about who you know.

Studying abroad can also increase the value of your degree. You may be able to take specialized courses overseas that you couldn’t take while here in the U.S. For example, you’re studying biology in Minnesota. There’s not a whole lot of ocean marine life here, is there? Well, why not take a year and specialize in marine biology in Fiji and get up close and personal with all the starfish and dolphins you could hope for? Studying abroad enables you to embrace so many opportunities you simply can’t attempt if you only stay in one place.

So, still not convinced studying abroad is a good investment? Well, take a look at Vistawide’sarticle on why the U.S. Senate believes it is imperative thatmore Americans choose to study abroad. Or check out studyabroad.com for testimonials, reviews, articles and much more about the benefits of studying abroad. Or better yet, go to the MSU KearneyInternational Center’s webpage for a comprehensive list of study abroad opportunities through the university, scholarships, resources, and more!

The International Programs Office invites you to attend their annual Spring Study Abroad Fair on Tuesday, February 11th from 10am-2pm on MavAve (the main floor of the CSU.) It will be your best chance this semester for “one-stop” study abroad shopping, as you will have a chance to speak not only with International Programs Office staff, but also MSU faculty who lead short-term study abroad programs, representatives from our partner study abroad companies, Student Financial Services and Career Development Center staff.

For additional information feel free to stop into the office at CSU 250, open Monday-Friday from 8am-4:30pm, or email us at ipo@mnsu.edu. If you’re still nervous about considering studying abroad, just remember it doesn’t hurt to at least ask about your options, right?

There are so many benefits to studying abroad, this post could go on for pages, but the best way to learn about them is to find out for yourself! Take a risk, gain confidence, maturity, independence, increase employment possibilities and most importantly, have tons of fun! Travel the world and get to know yourself a little better. You’ll be glad you did.

Julia Gilbert
Summer Intern (Fall 2013) at the Kearney International Center
Studied at The National University of Ireland in Galway

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