Does international travel abroad experience during college look good to a future employer?
– Kelly, recent graduate: Emmanuel College
When I read this question, one word comes to mind for me. Overrated.
I think studying abroad is a tremendous opportunity. I think it’s a broadening experience. I think you’ll have an incredible time, see wonderful new places, meet incredible people, and create some wonderful life memories.
So, if you’re doing to pursue it, do it for those reasons – not to differentiate you from other students in a job interview.
That said, if you approach your travel abroad uniquely, you might just enjoy all the benefits outlined above and differentiate yourself with a future potential employer.
What do I mean?
By way of example, a student who recently graduated from the undergraduate business school at Miami University opted to participate in the school’s growing China Program, where students go abroad to study for a semester.
Instead of going to the “standard” school and following the “typical” approach, he volunteered to be the first student from the school to go to a new school in China, asked to room with a Chinese student who did not speak English, and interned at the front desk at a hotel while he was there.
THAT kind of approach would get my attention as a recruiter as it clearly showed that the student was willing to challenge himself, take risks, and navigate unfamiliar waters successfully. Not surprisingly, he got a great job upon graduation.
If the internship offers that type of total “immersion” and/or the job you are pursuing has an international component to it (very few do), it could be of help to you.
The caveat here is that students who study “international business” or “international relations” are often disappointed to find how few companies consider this a preferred degree for entry level jobs. Domestic jobs that truly leverage that skill set are just not in abundant supply.
So, for the most part, the “typical” undergraduate study abroad experience where you will be going with a group of 50+ students from your school to live abroad and take classes in English will be a blast, but will absolutely positively not be a differentiator for you in the interview process.
Pat’s Bottom Line: It will be fun but is not likely to help you stand out without a unique approach.
Pat let me guess. You had your camera stolen in Rome, lost your passport in Paris, and drank bad beer in Dublin.
Why else would you be so negative about the merits of studying abroad? I work with large international companies who highly value job applicants who have studied abroad because it demonstrates a global curiosity, and willingness to live outside the US.
In an employer’s mind, there is a logical connection between the college students who willingly spent a semester in Singapore and the US employee who willingly takes the assignment in their Singapore office.
Global companies also believe that the study abroad experience helps prepare future employees to work collaboratively as part of international teams. That’s a big bonus for any international employer.
So, while you may not plan to work for a global organization, studying abroad always looks favorable on a resume. It makes a great topic of conversation in any job interview.
Pat, you’re right that more college students study abroad today than they did 20 years ago, but it is still far from overrated AND it promises to provide a lifetime of wonderful memories. At least on that final point we agree.
Susan’s Bottom Line: Study abroad experiences still look great to future employers.
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