Congratulations on completing your study abroad! You now represent the 23% of college students who gained international experience while earning their degree. 23%? That’s right! In order to stand out in the crowd, you must say more than, “I studied abroad.” When someone asks you about your trip, DO NOT....we repeat...DO NOT say, “it was good/great/awesome/excellent!” This is the study abroad interviewee kiss of death! Instead of saying your trip was good/great/awesome/excellent, you must SHOW your future employers how your international experience made you a better candidate than your competitors. Below are a few ways you showcase your international experience on your resume or in interviews. 

#1: Create an “International Experience” heading on your resume that SHOWS exactly what you did and why it is significant

#2: Prepare examples of experiences that SHOW how your experience shaped you into a better employee. What should you show? You need to demonstrate one or many of the top skills that employers are looking for: teamwork, applied STEM skills, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, global understanding, creativity/innovation, ability to apply knowledge in unfamiliar settings, ability to analyze quantitative information, or ethics and integrity.
How do you show this? When the interviewer asks you about your international experience you say...

  • “My time in ___________ was very significant. I had many experiences that taught me about myself and others. For example, when I first arrived my bags were lost, I did not speak the local language, and I did not know how to get to my new apartment without the directions in my luggage. I was panicked, but I decided to.... Although the experience was stressful, it taught me that I can perform under pressure even in new and unfamiliar settings. This increased my self-confidence and problem solving skills, which I know will be very helpful in the workplace.”

Think of several of these illustrative vignettes before you head into an interview!

#3: Makeover your resume by showcasing a range of your experiences abroad. “Study Abroad” is a generic title that has come to mean, unfortunately, partying, traveling, and maybe taking a few classes in another country! This IS NOT something you want to advertise to future employers. Instead, you need to showcase exactly what you did abroad.

Start by making a list of the things you did abroad. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What university did you attend?
  2. What department(s) did you study in?
  3. What classes did you take?
  4. What countries did you visit during the experience?
  5. Did you work on any interesting projects/papers/research for your courses?
  6. Did you participate in any sports/intramural activities?
  7. Did you participate in any student organizations/clubs? Any? Even once?
  8. Did you volunteer? Ever? Even once counts?
  9. Did you live with a host family?
  10. Did you learn any language? Formally or informally, both count!
  11. Did you do any type of work or internship?
  12. Did you earn any scholarships for or during your trip?
  13. Did you do any fundraising to support your trip?
  14. Did you expand your professional network? Who did you meet that could serve as a reference for you?
Now add the items you generated (from the questions above) to your resume:

Under your “Education” heading:List the study abroad university you attended/worked with, the dates, the G.P.A (if equal to or higher than U.W), courses etc.

Under your new “International Experiences” heading (see above):
List your language skills that you gained formally or informally. Label the language with novice/intermediate/advanced/superior to reflect your level

Under an “Awards” heading:
List any scholarships you received for your trip

Under a “leadership” heading:
List any student organizations you participated in, volunteering you did, etc.

Under a "References" heading:
Consider listing any close professional international colleagues you gained during your trip

Under a "Skills" heading:
Consider listing internationally-gained skills like: global literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, ability to thrive in unfamiliar settings, etc. Be sure to prepare an (interview) example to support each of these skills!

One last tip from corporate interviewers:
Always remember, the employer is not looking to fulfill your ideal job criteria, they are looking to see how/if you can fulfill their criteria for an ideal employee. When it comes to question time, ask, “what could I do to help improve this organization?” Channel the skills your mother (hopefully) taught you! As it turns out, these are the skills most new graduates need the most!

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