Teaser: Employers are looking for skills like yours!
Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime—it’s usually a time of great personal development and an opportunity to create an entirely new network of friends. And your study abroad experience can also open doors for you at home, long after you’ve returned. It could even get you a job.
So how do you translate that study abroad experience into a job interview or onto a CV? How do you convey all that you’ve learned from one semester (or more) into a line on a resume, or into an interview talking point?
It’s time to take inventory of everything you’ve learned abroad to see what you can distil enough to put on a resume. And look beyond things like your mastery of a language or the coursework you took, though that’s important information too. Things, like mastering the Parisian subway system, making friends with natives, and working at a part-time job abroad, are all experiences from which you’ve grown personally. Much of what you’ll develop when you study abroad is critical thinking, cross-cultural communication, and problem-solving—all of which are extremely valuable once you get home as well.
Especially if you’ve only studied abroad for a semester or a year, it can be confusing as to where to put study abroad on your CV. But it should go in the same place as the rest of your education—just put the months you were there and people will clearly know it was an exchange program. If you happened to “concentrate” in a certain subject while you were abroad, put that too.
But you can put study abroad experience in other places on your CV as well. If you held a part-time job that is pertinent to the job you’re applying for put that under “Experience.” Same goes for if you held a position in a student organisation.
If you have acquired any level of foreign language proficiency abroad, that’s also useful information to include—just don’t overstate your fluency because it could come back to bite you! We recommend following LinkedIn’s levels of fluency: Elementary proficiency, Limited working proficiency, Full professional working proficiency, or Native/Bilingual.
Once you’ve put your study abroad experience on your CV, it’s time to bring it up in an interview too (where appropriate). Depending on the job you’re interviewing for, your experience abroad might be very relevant, especially if this potential employer values intercultural communication and critical thinking. But don’t go in with a non-stop barrage of stories of your time abroad—save that for your family and friends. Think of what you’re trying to sell this potential employer on—which trait do you really want to show them you have? Then think of study abroad anecdotes that exemplify that. If you very recently studied abroad, you might even be asked directly about your experience. Be prepared to explain why you chose that country or school and what you learned there. It’s okay to mention the social skills you’ve learned, but skip any mentions of partying!
You can infuse your study abroad experience in both your CV and the job interview, but studying abroad can even help you network. Many study abroad programs have alumni groups that are made for networking. You should also join the alumni association of your study abroad school—usually, you’ll still be eligible even if you just studied for a semester. Be sure to join these groups on LinkedIn, too. It’s a great conversation starter if you’re looking to network, and those people may help you get jobs later!
Your study abroad experience can absolutely get you a job. After all, it’s a period of intense personal growth, and the skills you’ll bring home with you will prepare you for many types of jobs. So follow these tips and see what other doors your study abroad experience can open!
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