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How to Share Your Study Abroad Experience with Future Employers
When told correctly, study abroad memories can make for some of the very best stories. One part college story, one part travel tale ... what’s not to love?
While a good study abroad yarn can make you the life of a party, it can also go a long way in an interview setting. For many recent college grads and grads-to-be, a study abroad experience is a valuable way to stand out from the crowd.
There are several key distinctions between sharing travel stories with your friends versus sharing them with a prospective employer
. For instance, there aren’t too many interviewers who want to hear a rambling list of the sights you saw: what matters to a prospective boss is whether your experiences — travel-related or otherwise — make you a strong candidate for their position.
When reflecting on your favorite study abroad moments, consider the skills you gained or strengthened. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways that your study abroad experience can translate to professional expertise:
Cross-cultural communication skills
Travel can strengthen your ability to connect with and work alongside people of different cultures. Whether you took part in an internship abroad, were involved with a volunteer project, or simply made new friends, consider how you used your communication skills to accomplish a shared goal. How might that help you in a professional setting?
Foreign language skills
For many student travelers, a study abroad trip can be a valuable opportunity to build fluency in a second language. At your next interview, don’t hesitate to bring up the value of language-learning through immersion. With many companies conducting businesses in multiple countries, adaptable candidates with a command of more than one language are in increasingly high demand
Chances are, you didn’t see eye-to-eye with everyone you met abroad. It could be that you lived with a difficult host-family, or accidentally offended someone in your second language. You likely used strategies like concise communication, empathy, and compromise to ensure a safe and fun travel experience. Ultimately, successful travel is all about keeping your cool, and your future boss will appreciate that trait, too!
Getting used to a new environment takes time, but when you’re on the road, fast-acting adaptability is key. When you think about it, there are many parallels between exploring an unfamiliar city and navigating a new workplace. Don’t be afraid to let that skill shine!
Think about that time that you got all mixed up in Tokyo’s subway system. Or when you thought you had taken out enough money to cover your week in Ghana, but had totally underestimated your expenses. The same savviness you used to navigate unfamiliar situations will serve you well when a workplace project doesn’t go your way. Your employer will appreciate your flexibility and how easily you can think on your feet.
There’s nothing like travel to turn a once-frazzled college student into a confident, efficient planner. Staying on top of a jam-packed itinerary, making sure nothing gets left behind in hotel rooms, and researching destinations requires both responsibility and timeliness. Those skills can be easily applied in most entry-level roles, and they’ll serve you well beyond the workplace, too!
You might have researched the safety of your destination, or compared travel medical insurance plans
to ensure you were fully covered before departing. Maybe you took precautions to blend in, or opened a new bank account to avoid steep international ATM fees. Identifying and reducing risk factors is essential in many workplaces, and a skill-set that employers love to hear about.
Let’s face it, studying abroad is expensive. Unless you had a family member or a generous scholarship to cover the costs, you likely had to do some serious number-crunching to make your study abroad dreams into a financial reality.
Once you’ve identified your top skills, it’s time to tell your story. If you’re stumped about where to begin, try the STAR interview response technique
. A much-beloved interviewing strategy, the STAR method breaks a response into four essential components: situation, task, action, result. Here’s how an interviewee might tell a study abroad story using the STAR method:
During my semester in Italy, I took several classes on fashion merchandising and design. Although my program had several planned tours at brands like Versace and Prada, I was surprised to find that we would have very limited exposure to runway shows.
I knew that Berlin fashion week would be coming up, so I decided to contact several friends from my program to see if they’d be interested in traveling to the event with me. Before I knew it, we had a group of 10 and just under five weeks to plan our trip.
I first gathered everyone’s budget requirements and compiled it all into a shared spreadsheet. I researched the cheapest transportation options and low-cost lodging, and developed an itinerary for our group within the week.
The four-day trip I planned was an excellent opportunity for our group to engage with the international fashion scene. We were under-budget, able to attend all the events we had planned, and we still had time to explore Berlin. The trip was instrumental in building my time- and financial-management skills, while solidifying the value of international travel in the fashion industry.
By framing your favorite study abroad memories as transferrable professional skills, you can make an unforgettable first impression on a future employer. International travel requires flexibility, adaptability, curiosity, and resolve — essential skills in any workplace. Using your study abroad experience to your advantage will help you stand out, no matter where your ambition may lead you.
About the Author
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.
Read more of Grace’s blogs