It’s true that study abroad makes you stand out to employers – remember that only about 10% of students in the United States graduate with a study abroad experience!  But you might be asking yourself how you can further set yourself apart from even your peers that have studied abroad.   

Here, we’re going to give you some tools to get started on thinking about how to work study abroad into your resume, your cover letter, and in job interviews.  Remember, though, that this is just a start.  You should take advantage of resources on campus to review your resume and practice in mock interviews.

It's all about Skills  

When thinking about the skills you need for your next job or internship, you probably tend to identify the technical skills you need to be successful, however, our employers are sometimes more interested in your non-technical skills. You may hear these referred to as soft or transferable skills. These are skills that you'll take with you throughout your career and can be applied to any job, internship, or graduate school program – whatever your next step is! 

Top transferable skills employers are looking for include: 

  • Communication (written and oral) 

  • Leadership 

  • Teamwork 

  • Flexibility/Adaptability  

  • Critical thinking and problem solving  

  • Managing difficult situations 

So, think about how the experiences on your study abroad program have helped you gain or improve these transferable skills, and what examples you can provide on your resume or in an interview that demonstrate your skills in a unique way. 

Your Resume 

How you work your study abroad experience into your resume will depend on the format that you choose, the number of experiences that you have had, and what type of experience you had abroad.  There are a few different routes that you can take. 

Regardless of which route you take below, it’s important to think about the name that you use when listing your program – what is going to speak to employers? 

For example, is “CAPA London” or “Pitt in London” more meaningful?  In most cases, employers are going to place more value on the name of the University of Pittsburgh than a third party organization. 

If you participated in ISA Granada, “The University of Granada Center for Modern Languages” will carry more prestige than “ISA Granada.” 

Listing under “Education”  

This is how most individuals list study abroad experience on their resume, especially students that chose to focus primarily on coursework abroad. See the examples below: 

Pitt in London Spring 2018 
Coursework focused on the economic, political, and social differences between the United States and the United Kingdom 

OR 

University of Guanajuato Fall 2016 
Enrolled in courses with Mexican and International Studies, primarily taught in Spanish.  Coursework focused on Latin American politics, US-Mexico Relations, and advanced language skills. 

 

Listing under “International Experience  

Choosing to create an international experience section of your resume can be helpful if you’ve had multiple experiences and are particularly interested in working in an international field. Here’s how that section might look: 

International Internship Program  Summer 2017 

Madrid, Spain

Naeva Business SL, Marketing and Sales Intern                                                                                                      

  • Created Naeva’s first company profile in English, in order to draw prospective clients from the U.S., Canada, and the UK. 

  • Produced market research on the aeronautics industry in Spain; compiled a 30 page document to present to potential clients 

  • Examined prospective clients from various industries, contacted them and introduced them to Naeva’s services 

Pitt in London Spring 2016

  • Completed coursework in Economics, International Business, and British Culture                                      
  • Researched profitability of America businesses in the London economy                                                

MCE International Field Project Summer 2015   

Augsburg, Germany 

  • Analyzed luxury auto industry, visited major manufacturers, and toured various sites                                   
  • Completed cross-disciplinary business and engineering project                       

  • Studied the German language, culture, and economy first hand 

 

Listing Under “Experience” or “Work Experience” 

Choosing to list your study abroad experience in this section is especially helpful if you participated in an internship or service-learning program.  Typically, you would want to list the organization that you worked with and list the educational aspect under the “Education” section. 

Clean Water UKLondon Fall 2016 

  • Created a one-year social media plan that emphasized the organizations impact on lead-free drinking water in the United Kingdom 

  • Coordinated invitations and RSVPs for the 150 person fundraiser 

  • Completed general office tasks  

Casa de Los NinosCochabomba, Bolivia Summer 2017 

  • Worked in a Spanish-English bilingual environment 

  • Tutored 5 Bolivian students, ages 14-18, in English-language skills 

  • Developed a culturally-responsive curriculum to introduce US culture to Bolivia students 

  • Planned the Casa’s annual picnic for 10 staff, 5 volunteers, and 25 students 

Framing Your Experience in Interviews 

Having a study abroad experience on your resume is only half of the challenge – you need to be prepared to not only talk about your time abroad in general, but also to be able to frame specific experiences in a way that is meaningful to future employers or graduate schools.  Let’s look a few examples: 

The General: Tell me about your time in (insert country here) 

This can often be the most tricky question to answer in an interview – after all, you probably have a lot to say about your experience abroad!  Think back to the goals that you set for yourself on your program, and use those to frame your experience. 

Good Example:  I decided to study abroad in Nantes, France, as a way to improve my French skills.  Through this experience, I was able to take an advanced grammar course.  However, I found my homestay to be the most beneficial aspect of my time abroad in terms of my language goals.  Living with a family not only presented with cultural issues to work through, but forced me to speak French every day.  Ultimately, I have found that I am much more comfortable in conversational situations, which has provided me with a solid base upon which to build business skills in French. 

Bad Examples: It was always a dream of mine to go to France since I’ve always been fascinated with the culture.  Being able to spend a summer in Nantes was awesome since it meant that I got to live in a small town, but could also easily travel to Paris.  My friends and I took trips to Italy and London too, and did a wine tour!  I saw so many cool things that I had always dreamed about. 

Both examples are true but in the first example, the student was able to tease out specific experiences and goals that are directly related to the position to which she was applying. 

STAR Questions 

If you kept a journal and reflected on your goals while abroad, you should have no problem developing answers to behavioral interview questions that involve your study abroad experience.   

The Question: “Tell us about a time that you had to maintain calm under pressure.” 

The STAR Story:  

My friends and I had decided to take a weekend trip to Paris and thought it would be excited to take the Chunnel.  Upon arrival in Paris, I realized that the Metro line from the train station to our hostel was closed.  This was problematic as we had planned on exclusively using the Metro to get around town, and none of us spoke French.  When they realized the predicament that we were in, my friends began to get  anxious.  After all, in addition to no French, we also had no cell phone service. 

In this moment, I realized that I would need to charge of the situation.  I like to be prepared, so before we left London, I downloaded a Paris transportation map.  While remaining calm, I was able to determine that there was a bus that would connect us to another Metro line that went fairly close to the hotel. 

Looking back, I realize that this wasn’t the most dire of situations, but for a group of young guys that had were on their first trip overseas, it was a bit of a harrowing experience. 

In the end, because I was prepared and maintained calm, I was able to find an alternative transportation option and ensure that our group arrived safely to the hotel.  

 

What our students say

  • Rachel Mast

    In summer 2015, I participated in the International Internship Program in Berlin, Germany where I interned at an internet-based coffee retailer. Although I loved everything about my internship experience, my favorite memory came from getting to build personal relationships with my co-workers. There were four interns from around the world at my organization, and it was so cool to exchange cultural insights as well as differences in the respective educational programs. We are still connected on social media, and it is pretty cool to have friends from all over the world. Working in the consumer-goods industry, I was able to really see how Americans and Europeans vary in their preferences and response to marketing communications. Overall, the biggest thing I learned was how important it is to understand the target audience when creating products and marketing campaigns. After this experience, I feel much more confident in working for an organization with a global focus.
  • Kelsey Magilton

    Interning for the Sydney Opera House was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Choosing to participate in an internship was easily the best decision I made when going abroad. I was a marketing intern at the Sydney Opera House. The entire experience is one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was an exciting time to be an intern as I was able to help the team develop new marketing collateral with their recent rebranding efforts. I joined forces with the design department to create brochures and point of sale displays, which are still on display at the Sydney Opera House today. It was especially rewarding to be included in the initial brainstorming stage and assisting the SOH implement a successful re-launch of their brand. The biggest thing I learned was the ability to work with people of different cultures. Sydney is the "New York" of Australia, therefore it is one giant melting pot. I worked with individuals from every... Read more
  • Josh Hammaker

    Studying abroad has helped me in my career in ways I would never have expected. Most notably, studying abroad taught me how to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Since graduating from Pitt, I've been working in a position that involves a decent amount of travel and therefore requires me to interact with individuals from all over the world. Being able to share the adventures and experiences gained from studying abroad was likely one of the deciding factors that set me apart from other candidates for my position. Travelling to and living in another country takes most people out of their comfort zone, but every minute overseas was absolutely worth it.
  • Allie Roos

    When I was a freshman, I sat down with one of my professors to discuss what I expected from my college experience. The first thing out of my mouth was that I wanted to study abroad. Now as a senior, I have been able to study abroad twice, once with a Panther Program (Pitt in Sicily) and again with a Pitt-Recognized Program. It was this program that was suggested to me during that freshman year meeting. The Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (ICCS) has been the premiere study abroad experience for Classics students since 1965. The "Centristi" (students at the ICCS) come from across the country and live together for a semester in a four story building located in the eternal city, Rome. I knew from the first moment I heard about the program that I needed to be apart of this institution. Not only were the students from various parts of the country, but so were the Professors. The diversity of experience and background within our small group of thirty was a... Read more
  • Emma Huckins

    Through my time in Germany, I gained many professional skills that would be hard to learn just in the classroom in Pittsburgh. Every culture has its own customs and manners when it comes to business, and with business being such an international field, it is important to be knowledgable about cultures in other countries. I was able to get first hand experience of these kinds of differences while I was in Germany working with German university students and through touring corporations throughout my trip. The two weeks abroad lead up to a final group presentation on one of the automobile industries that we studied. Each group consisted of a couple of Pitt Business students, Pitt Engineering students, and University of Augsburg students. So on top of networking with students and professionals in Germany, as a CBA student I was given the opportunity to get to know and work with Swanson Engineering students. Overall, Plus 3 Germany not only expanded my professional network, but also gave... Read more
  • Madeline Wells

    Through the Pitt in Alcalá program and the Franklin Institute at the the Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, I had the opportunity to shadow a doctor at the local hospital in Alcalá. This experience was by far the most challenging, but also most rewarding. I was paired with a medical student in her third year of residency and had the opportunity to shadow her work for 15 hours. She worked in the rehabilitation department in the emergency room, so we saw lots of patients with muscular or skeletal injuries. I definitely had trouble understanding what the patients and doctors were saying, because they spoke very quickly and used advanced medical terminology. However, by the end of my time shadowing there, I could tell that my Spanish skills, especially my knowledge of medical Spanish, had improved tremendously. I am currently pursuing a degree in Rehabilitation Science and plan on being a physical therapist, and would love to incorporate Spanish into my career plans... Read more
  • Jay Carter

    As an exchange student in Marseille, France, I gained insight into the international business of the European culture and its influence on the global economy. The geographical and cultural diversity of each exchange student enriched course discussions; Chinese, Russian, Mauritian, Italian, Mumbian and Londoner are just a few of the student nationalities. Classroom presentations ranged on topics of ‘ethics, corporate social responsibility, unconscious bias, personal branding, talent marketing and skills management.’ Outside of the classroom, the Interact Team was welcoming and made Marseille enjoyable. The social activities exposed us to a lot of what Marseille had to offer. A few activities included water tubing, hiking the tranquil trails of Les Calanques, scenic tours, shopping and beach activities. The faculty, staff and students of Kedge were extremely accommodating to everyone, ensuring safety and well-being. Currently, I am employed with Luxottica Retail, a multinational... Read more
  • Rachel Vinciguerra

    I spent a little over two months in Haiti this summer conducting a program evaluation for a girls' empowerment program I helped to start there two years prior as well as completing an internship with an emerging foster care agency. This summer marks the first time that I have formally been involved in professional program evaluation. After my experiences in Haiti, I can say that I led two separate program evaluations (one a mid-point evaluation and one to design monitoring and evaluation protocol pre-implementation). Having this experience not only taught me a lot about program evaluation on-the-ground and helped me identify areas I can improve, but it also communicates to others in my field that I am serious about this work. After this summer I have deliverables in the form of a program evaluation report (in two languages) and program monitoring and evaluation guides that I could share with potential employers. This experience has brought me to a new level in my academic and... Read more
  • Nina Kneuer

    I believe that the two skills I learned the most while abroad was independence and adaptation. I've always been someone who is very independent, but when you're thrown into a country where you've never lived before and you're suddenly there, without family or friends, living with new people and new friends, it can be quite a culture shock, and can really test your true independence. I learned very quickly how to make real friends and how to become comfortable with my new surroundings. I also believe that having friends in this program really helped my independence grow while I was abroad, because with friends you go out and travel, like you wouldn't otherwise do by yourself. Hence, going out to pubs for a social night out with friends and booking last minute plane tickets to a weekend in Belgium, became a usual, fun, comforting, and independent thing for me to do. Adaptation comes along with independence in the sense that you are thrown into something you do... Read more