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How to Market Your Study Abroad Experience to Future Employers

by Megan Longerbeam
Young man in job interview | AIFS Study Abroad

There are so many reasons to study abroad, but there’s one you may not think of inherently: Studying abroad can help you obtain a job in the future, no matter what field you are planning on going into!

When students are planning to study abroad, they often hear how it is such a resume-enhancing experience, but why? What does living in a foreign country have to do with potentially wanting to run a business in the future or becoming an engineer? I’ve outlined some skills you can definitely put on your resume and talk about when an interviewer says “Tell me a time when…”

Here are four skills to highlight when you market your study abroad experience to future employers during the interview process:

1. Adaptability

When you study abroad, you’re not only taking classes, but you are also learning how to adapt and thrive in new situations outside of the classroom. Adaptability is a major skill that employers are looking for in every field. Your day-to-day interactions with locals, learning how to navigate the city by metro or bus, as well as adapting to a new way of learning with international students can prove to be examples of adaptability. Use these, or others like them, to market your international experience to future employers as you interview for an internship or job opportunity.

2.  Problem-Solving in Stressful Situations

I remember a time when I went on a weekend trip from Barcelona to Andorra and the bus took me to the wrong side of the country. While this was stressful at the time, it helped me step out of my comfort zone, talk to the locals, and figure out how to get to the city where my hotel was. I had to problem-solve and think on my feet in a stressful situation.

Simple stories like this are what future employers want to hear from you. Think about all the times you felt stressed during your study abroad experience, and think about how you handled them. Every job will have stressful times, so employers really want to know how you operate in those types of situations. It’s always good to have a story to back up the example you give in an interview.

3. Independence

This is a major skill to highlight, especially if you’ve chosen to study abroad alone. Being able to take the initiative to put yourself outside of your comfort zone completely is a great skill to have. At the time it can feel scary (I went through this as well), but after you’ve done it, you will be so happy you took on that challenge and you’ll realize how independent you really are.

This is a great skill to bring up when an interviewer asks if or how you can work independently. You can easily respond with, “I feel very confident working independently and making decisions based on my own judgement. I learned this about myself when I studied abroad without knowing anyone and was forced to make quick decisions. Now, I can make these decisions confidently on my own.”

4. Communication

This skill may seem obvious because there’s a good chance you were talking to people all the time while you were abroad, but take this as an opportunity to learn how to use it to your advantage during the interview process.

For example, did you ever ask locals for directions, possibly in another language? Talk about those interactions and how you are now more confident to approach people you’ve never met and start conversations. This is where you may also want to talk about how you’re not afraid to fail and keep trying until you get something right.

I remember one night in Barcelona I was craving a hamburger, so I went to a local restaurant and started ordering in Spanish, and the cashier immediately responded in English. While this made our interaction easier, I really wanted to learn their language. I practiced and continued trying to use Spanish and toward the end of my trip one of my waiters said he couldn’t tell Spanish wasn’t my native language. I took those interactions as learning experiences, which has been great to mention in an interview.

Overall, studying abroad is a major advantage. Only 10% of students study abroad, so you are already ahead of the game! To make yourself really stand out, use these tips to market your study abroad experience and reflect on your time overseas, and be able to attach a skill to them that you can use in an interview for any field.

College student during the interview and hiring process | AIFS Study Abroad
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