You’re back after a semester of studying abroad. You know that you just spent a semester on your own in a foreign country and aren’t the same person as when you left, but how do you synthesize all of that?! Conveying your experiences and growth to friends and family is one feat, but did you know that you should also be thinking about how to convey it to potential employers?
Unlike most things that you likely put on your resume, studying abroad probably isn’t something you intentionally realize will make you desirable to employers. The truth is, your employer may not realize it either. It’s up to you to reflect on your past experiences and connect them to the tangible skills you have gained.
Reflect on your growth and pinpoint your skills
Everyone is going to have different personal experiences depending on their program and what they’re studying. Whether you became fluent in another language, had an internship or independent study, or joined clubs and activities, your story is unique. Those things you’ll have to think about on your own, but every study abroad student has at least one thing in common: being an international student navigating immersion into a foreign culture. One day you’re at your home University surrounded by mostly American students, and then all of a sudden you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language with people that are no longer familiar to you. Navigating a new city while adapting to an entirely new culture AND still taking classes is not an easy actualization. If you’re one of the students who had the opportunity to travel on the weekends, you’re also managing completing your coursework, researching other cities, and planning weekend trips. Did you manage your own finances and deal with new currencies and conversion rates? These are some of the things that you can think about while reflecting on your semester.
According to GoAbroad.com, some examples of skills you might have picked up while studying abroad could be:
Learning a second language
Setting realistic expectations
Empathy and emotional Intelligence
Adapting to new environments and situations
Analyze your skills’ relevance and strength
After you’ve reflected and pinpointed tangible skills, think about your context. Which skills are important for you and also relevant to the position you’re applying for? Who is your employer? These questions will help direct which of your experiences to actually utilize and what skill-sets to hone in on. Putting the most relevant skills in your resume prevents you from oversharing and detracting from your abroad experience. Conceptualize bullet points as well as sections. Depending on your other information and experience, you can put as much or little of abroad on your resume as you see fit.
Skidmore recommends that you include your study abroad experience as either a part of your education or under your relevant experiences. You could even list it under both. If you’re looking for more examples, you can take a look at GoAbroad or StudyAbroad’s ideas.
Make sure to keep the experiences and skills you decide to use concise, though, because you also want to be able to expand on them in an interview setting when relevant.
Connect your skills to real stories
Be ready to use your skills in an interview setting! Putting your skills on a resume is one thing, but giving those skills life, personality, and truer meaning is another. Think back on your reflections and the real stories that demonstrate how you acquired certain skills. Be ready to share them in an interview in order to provide more background on how you have developed your skills and how they will benefit your potential employer. Think about what is relevant to you both.
So even though you may not have gone abroad with your resume in mind, it is an experience that you shouldn’t feel weird talking about and using to your benefit. It takes independent initiative to live in another country for a semester, so don’t be afraid to market yourself and your life-changing experience. Now go get hired!