Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market?

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study-abroadNikole from Salve Regina University asked:

I am a sophomore double majoring in Interactive Communication Technology and Studio Art with a concentration in Graphic Design. I am going abroad to New Zealand this fall. I was wondering if employers take into consideration where you study abroad. I am looking to go abroad for a second semester and get an internship. Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market? Are there certain study abroad destination countries that employers prefer over others?

Hi Nikole –

I am a big fan of study abroad programs.  I spent my junior year of college at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany.  After I graduated, I spent another year in Germany teaching on a Fulbright Scholarship, and throughout my education I took every opportunity I could to travel outside the US.

My time in other countries has helped shape who I am, how I think, how I make decisions, and how I view the world.  It was fundamentally life changing for me.

That was my experience; it is not the experience everyone has when they study abroad.

If you approach your study abroad program like an educational learning adventure, you can have a life changing experience.  If you approach it like a tourist, you probably won’t.

While my study abroad experiences helped shape me as a person and a professional and have given me numerous  intangible advantages in the job market, they have not given me any specific, tangible advantages.  Why is that?

I did not go into a profession that requires the tangible skills I developed while studying abroad; namely, knowledge of the German language and culture.

Indirectly, I have used those skills in every job I have ever held.  Directly, they were not specifically required qualifications for those same jobs. You see . . .

Completing a study abroad program does not – by itself – make you a more competitive candidate for employment.

Completing a study abroad program can show that you can adapt to new environments, work outside your comfort zone, learn new things, work with people from different cultures, live and work independently.  All of these are really valuable qualities and characteristics to possess.  Employers like candidates who have them, but employers won’t know you have them if you don’t tell them you do through your resume, cover letters, conversations and interviews.  They will not assume you have them just because you completed a study abroad program.

Where you study abroad is less important than what you do while you are abroad.

Select your study abroad program carefully.  It’s not a vacation – it’s part of your education.

As you consider study abroad programs, ask a few questions:

Will this program help you develop your foreign language skills?
Is the program related in any way to your major field of study?
Will the credits you earn fulfill any of your degree requirements?
Have other students from your school/your degree program done this program before?  What is their advice?
What interests you about this country and its culture?
How will this program help you explore your career options?

If you are intentional in your approach to study abroad, you can have a life changing experience;  an experience that can give you a real advantage in the job market.

Happy travels!


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3 responses to “Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market?”

  1. As someone who has participated in multiple abroad trips (ranging from completely tourist to sister city exchange and study abroad) and works currently in study abroad, I would completely agree with all of these points! The importance of doing something that you can then talk about to a potential employer (versus partying on a beach all the time) will really help you stand out!

  2. […] I am a big proponent of study abroad programs!  I just responded to another question about study abroad a short time ago:  Does studying abroad give you an edge in the job market? […]

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