Resources for Leveraging Your Study Abroad
Today's economy is a global. Consequently, the ability to communicate and interact with people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities is more important than ever before. In today's competitive job market your resume should highlight the experiences and valuable skills you gained while studying abroad. When revising your resume, consider the following:
- Add your study abroad program name, country, university, and duration dates to the education section your resume.
- Add your internship or volunteer experiences to the experience section of your resume.
- Identify the proficiencies you gained and provide detail about the lessons you learned during your experience abroad. Locations and dates alone won't reveal enough about what happened.
- Explain how you become proficient or fluent in a language in class and/or out in public.
- Identify any organized or independent research projects you worked on and explain what they were about. Describe the size and scope of any international teams you collaborated with.
- List any honors or awards you received and describe what they were for.
- List any presentations or publications you worked on abroad and explain what they were about.
- Identify the number of additional countries you visited while abroad and why you went there.
- Connect your new proficiencies to transferable skills by explaining how the experiences (above) taught you any of the following:
- Cultural sensitivity and global perspectives
- Adaptability and resilience
- Communication skills
- Create a new resume for each job or internship application. You are more likely to get an interview when your skills and experiences are a direct match to the specific requirements of a posting. Research the organization and industry to understand what they value and highlight how your study abroad experience aligns with their needs.
Study abroad experiences should be mentioned in your cover letters; however, make sure they are not exclusively about study abroad. Like your resume they should be customized for your audience. Each graduate school or employer should receive an original cover letter that is applicable to the program or organization. If possible, briefly explain why your experiences abroad have prepared you for a desired job. Specifically, highlight your transferable skills like flexibility, problem solving, and time management. Examples:
- "My experience studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica allowed me to gain solid proficiency in Spanish as well as a strong knowledge of Hispanic culture and life. I know my Spanish language skills and understanding of Latino culture will be useful in expanding your Latino client base."
- "While studying abroad in Osaka, Japan I had to quickly learn to navigate the city's large metro system. This was not an easy task — I could only speak and read very basic Japanese. However, I learned the system very quickly because I relied on the metro to get me to school as well as my internship each day."
Ask someone to review your materials
Get professional feedback on your resumes and cover letters. You can seek advice from a staff member of your home university’s career or writing center, study abroad advisor, or mentor. Many of them can help you identify the most impactful elements of your study abroad experience and suggest improvements to your resume (and catch a typo or two).
A well written resume and cover letter is your gateway to a job interview. Just like you need to craft a well written resume, you should practice basic interview questions. Most interviewers will draw at least some questions from a general pool of questions. Take some time and practice your answers with family and friends. Practice weaving your study abroad experience into your answers.
Types of Interview Questions:
- Introduction & Background: These are designed to get you engaged in a conversation with an employer, as well as give a sense of your personality and overall character. They may ask: what are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your career goals? Tell me about yourself.
- Behavioral: The employer wants to see how you react to certain situations. They may ask: tell me about a challenging or difficult experience and how you handled it? Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision.
- Company Culture: How will you be able to fit into the company's environment? Employers want to see how you will work with others. They may ask: what personal characteristics do you think are necessary to be a success in this position? What qualities should a successful manager, leader, or supervisor possess? What can you do for us that someone else cannot?
- Job Specific: You want to show the specific skills and abilities that will make you a good employee for the job you're applying for. They may ask: how would you describe your problem-solving ability? Have you ever been put on the spot by a professor or employer when you felt unsure of yourself?
- Ethics: Employers want to see your personal code of ethics. In a growing global market, you need to show you understand, respect, and can work well with people with diverse backgrounds. They may ask: in what ways are your ethics in business different from your ethics in your personal life? What are the advantages of diversity in the workplace?
Always mention your study abroad experience! Use the reflection questions above to come up with stories that showcase the skills you gained abroad. Try using PAR (Problem, Action, Result) to present relevant stories during your interview.
- Example 1: Talk about a goal you had and how you were able to achieve it.
- Problem: "While in college, I minored in Spanish. Although I learned a lot in my Spanish courses, my goal was to become fluent in Spanish. I could write and read Spanish well, but my speaking abilities were only intermediate."
- Action: "I decided to study abroad for a year in San Sebastián, Spain. I was sure that being immersed in a Spanish speaking environment was what I needed to become a fluent speaker. I would be living with a Basque family and taking courses where only Spanish was spoken."
- Result: "After my year of studying abroad, I returned home able to communicate fluently in Spanish with not only my classmates, but also the with members of my community. As a result, I've gained more confidence in my speaking abilities."
- Example 2: What has been your greatest accomplishment?
- Problem: "One of my greatest accomplishments was my study abroad immersion experience in Viterbo, Italy. I was originally going to live abroad with other American students at first, but I wanted to learn more about the culture and integrate myself with the locals."
- Action: "I requested to live with local student who attended my university so that I could live and be surrounded by Italians. I also took advantage of intercambio (language exchanges) offered through my study abroad program and met with my intercambio weekly to practice my Italian and help him with his English."
- Result: "In this way, I not only gained better language skills, but also had a more authentic cultural experience, which improved my cross-cultural communication skills."