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 allabout Skills
When thinking about the skills you need for your next job or internship,you probably tend to identify thetechnical skillsyou need to be successful,however, our employers are sometimes more interested in your non-technical skills. You may hear these referred to as softor 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 lookingforinclude:
- Communication (written and oral)
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Managing difficult situations
So, think about howthe experiences on your study abroad program have helped you gain or improve thesetransferable skills, and what examples you can provide on your resume or in an interview that demonstrate your skillsin a unique way.
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 inLondonSpring 2018
Coursework focused on the economic, political, and social differences between the United States and the United Kingdom
University ofGuanajuatoFall 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 experiencesectionof your resume can be helpful if you’ve had multiple experiencesand are particularly interested in working in an international field. Here’s how that section might look:
International InternshipProgram Summer 2017
NaevaBusiness SL, Marketing and Sales Intern
- CreatedNaeva’sfirst 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 toNaeva’sservices
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
- 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 UK,LondonFall 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 LosNinos,Cochabomba, BoliviaSummer 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, butalsoto 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.
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 hadno 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.