Studying Abroad: Does it help you land internships or jobs?

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment


This blog post was originally posted on Beyond the Elms, a career planning and networking blog for college students, on March 15, 2011.

Thanks to a myriad of personal and health reasons, I’ve recently had to question whether or not I will be studying abroad in the fall. The decision process was long and complicated, made worse by emotional outbursts, questioning expectations of myself, and worrying about whether or not I was letting others down if I didn’t study abroad. In one of my long conversations with my parents and friends about studying abroad versus not studying abroad, the topic of jobs and internships came up. The questions we found ourselves asking was this: does studying abroad really help you land a future job or internship?

Our answers were split. Clearly, the study abroad experience is incredibly valuable in a lot of different ways. It allows students to see the world and experience culture. It opens doors to new opportunities and activities. You meet new people, grow as an individual, take fantastic pictures, broaden your horizons…but can any of this be put on a resume?

Of course, everyone’s situations are different. Personally, I have had the good fortune to have traveled with my family. Studying abroad wasn’t something that I ever felt I had to do as a Scripps student. The perception is that resumes will always shine brighter if you have traveled abroad, explored the world, and taken a few classes while doing so. Studying abroad helps with problem-solving in almost any situation (language barrier, anyone?), and future employers will certainly acknowledge the fact that you have grown as a person. But does the entire study abroad experience prepare you for a job?

It depends on what specific job field you would like to enter. Personally, I hope to work in the tech sector, and there are very few institutions abroad that will actively help me toward that goal. One of the few people I know who studied abroad for a specific field is my boss – she attended the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, and took post-graduate classes in information management. Clearly, her experience was specifically tailored for her field, as she now works in community management at a tech start-up in San Francisco. Another example of tailoring a study abroad experience for your field would be attending the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome if you’re a classics major. What better choice could there be? On the same note, many institutions offer accompanying internship opportunities for eligible students. Obviously, these are fantastic opportunities to work abroad at an accredited company in your field – that will definitely stand out to your future employers!

However, many study abroad institutions are not quite as specialized as those listed above. In that case, the experience of traveling and living abroad – and the skills acquired by doing so – will have to be enough to shine through in your interview with a potential employer. The name of a school on your resume can only take you so far. For me, studying abroad was not conducive to my self-designed major and wasn’t specifically tailored to the field I want to pursue after graduation. On top of that, it was just falling at an awful time because of personal reasons. I was forced to consider whether studying abroad was a crucial aspect of my college experience, and I eventually decided it wasn’t. Would I have liked to? Sure, at a different time, without having to worry about classes not counting toward my major, and maybe at an institution that applies directly toward my desired job field. Meanwhile, I am already looking into abroad opportunities for next summer. Just because I chose not to study abroad during the school year doesn’t mean I can’t get just as wonderful of an experience at another time. As long as it’s something I’m passionate about doing, a future employer will certainly see that in my resume, and during any interview.

Interested in reading more about the impact study abroad has on your future job search? Kim Gradel’s article, Using Your International Experience to Get a Job, is a good place to start. Click here to read an article about the positives of studying abroad containing statistics conducted by Global HR News.


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