Studying Abroad: A Résumé Builder

One of our Professors in Japan

One of our Professors in Japan

If you are interested in Studying Abroad or if you have Studied Abroad in the past, now might be a good time to look at how it can help expand your Résumé.   

Study Abroad

One of the simplest ways that you can use your Study Abroad experience in your Résumé is simply by listing it as part of your education.  There are multiple ways you can benefit from this.  First, if you are new to the career field, then your Résumé might be running a little thin on information; use the “Studying Abroad” experience as a filler/lengthener.  Sounds silly/cheap, but everything counts in the job search.  More importantly, if you list the foreign college that you studied under, it adds to the depth of your educational experience. It shows that you have studied under Professors coming from different backgrounds or ways of thought.  It adds to the fact that you might bring in unique or different ideas to their work. For example, I have studied the Law in Civil Law nations and Common Law nations. That means that simply by stating that I studied in China and the United States, my interviewers can tell that I understand ways different people view the law and how it can be applied in alternative ways.   It strengthens the fact that I stand out from the rest of their applicants.

Skills

One of the things you are going to need on both your Résumé and your Cover Letter are key terms, skills, and/or character traits.  You will frequently be asked to name your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.  Or perhaps you just need to show them what you can offer their team.  If you Study Abroad, there are many helpful terms that can now be applied to you.  Some of those you might use include:

  • Motivated / Interested / Passionate~ Studying abroad in your career field shows that you are willing to go above and beyond; your major wasn’t just a job, it was an interest.
  • Independent / Self-Reliant / Self- Sufficient  ~ If you survived foreign living, transportation, education, and language barriers, it usually means you can think on your own.
  • Dependable / Reliable / Responsible As above, if you survived the experience (even better if you excelled), you can probably be trusted to meet your deadlines.
  • Creative / Inventive / Adaptable / Problem Solver  ~ Studying Abroad involves a lot of creative thinking and adapting to your environment; this means that if you run into a problem in your work, you already are geared towards finding a solution to the issue.  Furthermore, you can probably survive high-stress situations.
  • Big Picture-Person / Global  This might seem obvious, but people who travel understand how large the world is. This can translate into an understanding of the potential for a company’s ideas, big ideas of your own, and a realization that one ways is not necessarily the only way.  This is a very important skills for almost all companies.
  • Communicator / Strong Inter-Personal Communication Skills / People-Person ~ You would be surprised at the number of travelers who are actually introverts. However, if you have traveled abroad, you automatically show that you can communicate efficiently and effectively when necessary.  It’s even better if you can list ways that you interacted with the locals or have recommendations from people  you met there.

Foreign Language

This part will take some work on your part, but it will definitely boost the individuality of your Résumé.  I always recommend that students studying abroad learn the basics of the language they will be encountering.  That doesn’t mean you have to take classes or speak in sentences, but try to get to where you can move around without constantly needing a dictionary.  Learn the basic words: “Hello, Thank You, Taxi, Hotel, Airport, Food, Bathroom.”  Then add to your Résumé the fact that you know “travel” basics of the language. Employers might be interested in sending you abroad, and this shows that they wouldn’t have to hold your hand through the entire process.  Even if you aren’t at a “beginner” level according to college classes, you can survive on your own if needed ~ an important skill.

Experience

This is the most important section of all ~ using your time abroad to expand on your experience.   I usually do not recommend studying abroad until you have chosen your major (unless you get your whole degree in a foreign school or study abroad in high school).  This is because your most efficient use of the time will include using this experience to broaden your knowledge in preparation for your career.   Once you do go abroad, try to find internships or externships ~ sometimes the college will help you and sometimes you just need to find them on your own.  Add that into the “Experience” part of your Résumé.  Try learning more about how your major is exemplified in this country.  If you are an artists studying in Italy, visit art museums and galleries.  If you are a biologist, visit science museums and try to get interviews with local scientists.  If you are studying architecture, look up famous or interesting sites and visit them. Write down articles about your experience and keep a record. Then add into your Résumé this time as a period of “Gathering Experience and Research.”  Publish a short (or long) paper on what you learned online via a blog or a free “e-book” site (such as CreateSpace or Smashwords), and provide a link within your Résumé.  

There are many ways that you can use your experience to benefit your career path ~ networking, education, opportunity expansions.  Before you go, think about what you want to get out of this trip and plan to make the most of your time there.  Students who study abroad are awesome; we just have to name it and claim it!

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