The Study Abroad Experience: Highlighting Your International Experience
Today's employers are seeking out culturally diverse and experienced employees who can work effectively in an increasingly global marketplace. San Diego State University's Career Services and College of Business have compiled information to help you highlight your international experience in an interview, cover letter, or resumé.
Study abroad does more than promote personal, professional, and academic growth. It can also enhance your full-time and or internship prospects since employers are increasingly seeking students who have studies abroad. Employers recognize the fact that those students who have successfully completed a study abroad program are likely to possess skills needed in the global economy:
- Economic and geographical knowledge
- Cross-cultural communication skills
- Analytical skills
- Understaning of and familiarity with local customs
- Ability to adapt to new circumstances
- Proficiency in a foreign language
If you have studied abroad, you should highlight such skills to potential employers.
Your study abroad experience may open doors for you to consider an international career. Be sure to consult publications on working abroad and pay attention to immigration policies in countries that interest you. While you are abroad, make a list of contact information for anyone you meet who works in an area that interests you. Once you are back home, be sure to write them and let them know you are interested in returning to work abroad after you have graduated.
Continue to build on your study abroad experience by networking and increasing your cross-cultural experiences on campus. Polish the language learned by taking advanced language classes or joining a language club. Become an English tutor for an international student, or join an international or multicultural club or campus organization. Pursue other opportunities to study, work or travel abroad.
Going Global is an online resource available through your Aztec Career Connection account. It includes worldwide job openings, internship listings, industry profiles, and country-specific career information, adn much more. Learn more about Going Global.
Bethany Andreen, senior, plans to become a licensed speech-language pathologist in a medical setting. She studied abroad in Scotland. [Learn more.]
Matthew Schauer, ’11, has lived in rural China since 2012. While still at SDSU, he was awarded a semester-long internship at the U.S. State Department. The experience gave him a taste of life as a public servant. “I want to find new and innovative ways to help struggling economies,” Schauer said. “I think I’m good at figuring out how all the pieces fit together for long-term solutions. It’s the kind of analysis that I learned at SDSU, and it has helped me get to where I am in my career.” [Learn more.]
Study abroad experiece is a good way to differentiate yourself from your peers. As you share your resumé with prospective employers, you will want to highlight the experience you gained while studying abroad. Many employers are looking for workers who are versatile and adaptable, and by listing your study abroad experience on your resumé, you are demonstrating your ability to succeed in a new environment and your willingness to seek out new experiences. Having a relevant story to tell in an interview or having recent global experience listed on your resumé can be a definite advantage. Resumé considerations include:
- If applicable, mention your international experience in the "Objective" section of your resumé:
- Enhanced cultural awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences of customers
- Foreign language proficiency
- Awareness of global economic, political issues and realities
- List your study abroad experience separately under the "Education" section (example):
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, emphasis in Finance
San Diego State University GPA 3.6 May 20xx
Study Abroad, Institute for the International Education of Students, Barcelona, Spain, Summer 20xx
- Extensive study of the Spanish and Catalan cultures through classroom and host family experience
- Learned valuable lessons in time management, foreign exchange rates, and cultural aspects of business
- If you completed an international internship, list this under the "Experience" section.
- If you participated in volunteer work, you can list this under "Experience" or "Volunteer Experience," depending on how extensive your experience was as a volunteer abroad.
Be sure to briefly describe the skills and experience learned from studying abroad and how that learning is transferable to the position you are seeking. You do not want to repeat your resumé to the employer. Instead, this is an opportunity to highlight related accomplishments while overseas that will make the reader want to learn more. Typically, this information is presented in the second or third paragraph of the cover letter. Learn more about cover letters.
The interview is your time to articulate how your skills, experiences and personality fit the needs of the organization. During the interview, you may be asked about your study abroad experience and you should be ready to answer these questions in a way that highlights how the skills you gained abroad will "add value" to the employer's organization and enhance your job performance. Here are some examples of questions you might be asked:
- "You studied in Barcelona, Spain. Why did you decide to go there? How was your experience the same or different from your expectations?"
- Answer strategy: Think back to why you decided to go. It may help to refer back to the personal statement you wrote with your study abroad application. Think about the things that surprised you while you were abroad. For example, you may have realized that Spain is more diverse than you thought it would be.
- "What have you accomplished at school or during your study abroad experience that you are most proud of?"
- Answer strategy: Think about the goals you had for going overseas. Which goals did you meet? Which ones were you most proud of? As you relate this to the interviewer, you might express it by:
- Explaining the goal you had for traveling abroad
- Describing how this goal was accomplished
- Sharing what you learned along the way
Interviewers are asking more behavioral questions intended to assess how you will respond or act in certain situations or roles. You may be asked to describe your leadership style or how you deal with conflict. If you have relevant experience from abroad, this would be an opportunity to share it with the recruiter. In addition, remember the STAR approach to formulating an answer to interviewer questions:
- S - Situation: Describe what you were facing
- T - Task: Describe what you wanted to achieve
- A - Action: Describe what you did
- R - Results: Describe what happened, how things turned out, what you learned, and what you might do differently if presented with similar circumstances in the future.
Adapted from Center for International Studies, Northampton, VA (www.transitionsabroad.com) and modified by SDSU Career Services.