How to Impress Employers with Your Study Abroad Experience

by David Nesbitt

Seelio Study Abroad Gallery

Are you struggling to understand how your study abroad can help you stand out in your job search, or how to talk about it with employers? Your experience abroad can be a big asset when you’re applying for jobs and internships. But what do employers see as the value of your study abroad experience?

To answer this question, the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) at Michigan State University reached out to employers to find out what differentiated recent hires with international experience from those without international experience. From their research, more than 50% of the employers surveyed reported that recent hires with international experience excelled in these three areas:

  • Interacting with people who hold different interests, values, or perspectives
  • Understanding cultural differences in the workplace
  • Adapting to situations of change

Additionally, 45% of these employers said that hires with international experience also excelled in gaining new knowledge from experiences.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Employers recognize that your study abroad has given you valuable skills. But there’s a catch. In order for your experience abroad to help you in your job search, you first need to clearly understand what you got out of the experience, and how it can be an asset in the workplace.

Here are 3 steps to help:

1) Reflect on your study abroad experience
Take some time to think through your time abroad and ask yourself questions to prompt reflection. Consider questions like:

  • What were the best parts about your study abroad experience?
  • What new skills did you have to learn?
  • How did you have to adapt to a new culture and school?
  • What was a strength that you demonstrated during your study abroad?

Think through the best and worst experiences you had, and ask yourself why they were meaningful or challenging. Write down notes as you reflect to document your thoughts.

2) Put your thoughts into words that are relevant to the workplace
Now that you’ve done some reflection about your study abroad experience, it’s time to think about how to communicate the themes and ideas you wrote down in a way that will connect with employers. Consider reviewing job descriptions for positions you are interested in and seeing how you could leverage the skills and experiences you identified from your time abroad in that role.

3) Practice talking about your study abroad
Before talking with employers, it’s a good idea to get some practice! Set aside some time to have a friend, family member, or career service professional at your university listen to you tell them about your study abroad experience as if they’re an employer, and ask them for feedback. Ask them if you’re making a clear, specific connection between what you experienced while abroad and how that makes you a better job candidate. An example of a clear connection could be:

“While I was traveling in Peru with my classmates from the study abroad program, I had to find ways to communicate important travel information with ticket agents, taxi drivers and others despite language barriers. This experience helped me to grow in my ability to take initiative in challenging and new situations, and helped build my communication skills.”

After following the steps outlined above, you’ll be ready to impress employers with your study abroad experience and the great things you gained from it. And don’t forget to create a work on Seelio that tells the story of your time abroad, including the reflection you just did about what you gained from the experience. Here are a few excellent examples of works on Seelio that document study abroad experiences:

Global Experiences by Katie GibsonStudy Abroad in Israel by Loryn Spady     IT Engineer at ZF Steering Systems by Justin Koehler