That’s right. Studying abroad could be the slam dunk in that job interview.
Did you know that only 10 percent of US college students study abroad? Imagine being part of that small percentage that studied, worked and lived in a foreign country.
Now, imagine that you are the ONLY job applicant with that real world experience. It can happen if you choose to study abroad.
When my daughter was in college, she had the opportunity to enhance her education with two study abroad experiences: in Paris for a semester and in London for a summer session. Those experiences not only helped to bolster her feeling of confidence and independence, but they bolstered her resume. Employers saw the value of that experience because they recognized that:
Studying abroad immerses you in the language.
There is no better or more effective way to learn a language than to be immersed in a culture that speaks the language you are learning. You’re surrounded by the language on a daily basis and see it and hear it in the proper cultural context. Language learning happens most quickly under these circumstances. If you apply yourself, you could become fluent in that language and offer an employer bilingual capabilities.
Studying abroad immerses you in the culture.
Cultural differences are more than just differences in language, food, appearances and personal habits. A person’s culture reflects very deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that influence his or her way of life and the way that s/he views the world. This ability to live and study among diverse cultures is appealing to employers, especially global companies, and those who employ abroad.
Studying abroad teaches you independence.
You discover new strengths and abilities, conquer new challenges and solve new problems. You will encounter situations that are wholly unfamiliar to you and will learn to adapt and respond in effective ways. Employers look for these qualities in future employees.
Studying abroad expands your world view.
In comparison with citizens of most other countries, Americans tend to be uninformed about the world beyond the nation’s boundaries. Students who study abroad return home with an informed and much less biased perspective toward other cultures and peoples. In this global economy, your knowledge and openness to diverse cultures makes you an appealing candidate in the job applicant pool.
Studying abroad enhances the value of your degree.
While abroad, you can take courses you would never have had the opportunity to take on your home campus. In addition, studying abroad affords you the opportunity to explore the arts, travel and oftentimes learn about the origins of current governments and cultures. If you become fluent in the language, you might consider adding that language as a minor to your degree.
As my daughter met with employers after graduation, they always asked her about her study abroad experiences. She was able to tell them about the challenges she faced and the obstacles she overcame while abroad. She went to Paris a few weeks after September 11th and encountered a unique opportunity to experience the world’s support during that time. But she also had to overcome the fear that Americans were being targeted by terrorists. This experience alone communicated her strength and desire to press on in spite of difficult circumstances; and in the end, landed her a great job in a very difficult job market.
UPDATE: This post has been revised to reflect data from NAFSA (Association of International Educators) that says 10 percent of US college students have studied abroad.
About Suzanne Shaffer: Suzanne counsels parents in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. As a parent herself, she knows the trials and tribulations—and is out to prove that with the proper preparations, any child can achieve his/her dream of a college education. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents. Her Parents Countdown to College Toolkit provides parents with all the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze. She is a regular contributor on GalTime.com and ClassesandCareers.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
How ULS Can Help
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