Career Tips for Study Abroad Participants | Webster University

Broaden Your Career Horizons

By: Stephanie Lass

Studying abroad is both an amazing personal experience and an excellent professional opportunity. The skills you develop and the connections you make while abroad will translate well into the workplace.

At first, it may be difficult to convey these experiences to a potential employer. While not direct work experience, study abroad is a prime opportunity to develop your professional skills. To give you an idea, here are some of the skills you’ll pick up while studying abroad:

Organization & Planning 

Interpersonal Communication 
Attention to Detail

Flexibility & Adaptability 

Language Development 
Cross-Cultural Communication & Sensitivity 
Global Awareness

There are several things you can do during every phase of this experience that’ll help you not only with your career, but also with enjoying your time abroad.

Before You Leave

Attend study abroad orientation 

At study abroad orientation, you will learn what to expect during your stay abroad. Topics could range anywhere from culture shock to expenses. It’s important to know what’s in store for you so that you can begin preparing yourself.

Interview a past study abroad participant

Talk to someone who has been through it before. They will impart you with their wisdom and some smart tips on what to see and how to save money. If you have a question, they probably know the answer.

Interview a national from your destination country

IIn addition to talking to a fellow student, talk to someone who is from your destination country. They will not only tell you about the culture so you can avoid making a cultural faux pas, but they can also tell you of interesting places you can visit. Plus, they’re a great first networking connection you can make.

Study the language/cultural expectations of your destination country

The world is not limited to your own country. People in other countries will often have different customs than you’re used to. They also might not speak your language, and it’s generally considered impolite to expect them to speak in your language to begin with. Research the basics of the language and customs of your destination country so that you show them respect in their culture.

Set a plan to stay connected to opportunities/field of interest while away

If you’re interested in creating professional connections while abroad, great! Start thinking of ways that you will be able to maintain contact with them, both during and after your experience. It’s easier to brainstorm beforehand so that you don’t find yourself unprepared to maintain contact with your expanding network while abroad.

Set a budget

One of the largest aspects of your experience will be traveling. Set a plan of places you want to visit. Consider travel, food, room, and attraction admission costs. Leave some room in your budget for emergencies. You don’t want to end up stranded in a foreign country without any money, so set your budget and stick to it once abroad.

While You're There

Plan your adventures 

Once you’re abroad, you’re going to want to start exploring. If you haven’t already, now is the time to plan your trips. Book flights, hotels, etc. ahead of time that fit in your budget. Work out the logistics of travel time. Prioritize what you want to see, and then go have fun!

Communicate in the native language

Try to communicate in the native language as much as possible. If you’re trying to speak their language, people will be more inclined to like you and not find you rude. This will also help you practice a new language with native speakers.

Ask for help from a stranger

This goes hand-in-hand with the last one, but asking help from a stranger is a little different than talking to a cashier. It can be a little daunting to walk up to someone to ask for help, especially if you aren’t confident with the language, and this situation could include some more variety of vocabulary. It’s another great way to interact with the people and practice your language skills.

Throw yourself into the new culture

The culture of your destination country is not going to be what you’re used to, and that’s okay! Once you overcome any culture shock, try to really engage with the culture. Try new foods, go to festivals, interact with the people. You’ll learn so much about the people and culture of your destination country doing this than you will reading about it in your room.

Set up meetings with nationals in your career of interest

If you have an idea of the kind of career you’re interested in, schedule informational interviews with people in that field that are from your destination country. This will give you an insight into the globalized aspect of your field, and you’ll make great new connections.

Keep a journal detailing your experiences and newly developed skills

While your experience may seem unforgettable in the moment, you’ll probably still forget some things. Write down important experiences during which you thought you used a career-related skill like the ones listed above. You can refer back to these during future interviews when questions about those skills inevitably come up.

Explore on your own

Sometimes, you have to go on a journey of personal discovery. Keeping your safety in mind, know that it’s okay to take a trip by yourself. Be independent for a weekend and talk to new people wherever you go instead. Push yourself to be able to plan something like a weekend trip in another country without any help and then be able to execute it.

Explore with other travelers

But travel with others, too! Traveling with other people is also a great experience. Learn how to cooperate and compromise as you plan this trip. You’ll learn what it’s like to be relied upon to uphold your responsibilities on a trip. If someone doesn’t wake up on time, that could jeopardize everyone else’s plans.

After You're Back

Remain in contact with your new connections

The networking doesn’t stop just because you’re home. Stay in touch with your new network abroad. They might be able to connect you to an international opportunity, or you may be able to help them when they travel to your country.

Review the skills you’ve learned

Look back at your journal and review your experiences. Ask yourself how you will be able to talk about these experiences in an interview-related setting. Be sure to incorporate these skills into your resume, especially if a potential employer is looking for these skills.

Talk to others about your experience

Remember that study abroad student you talked to before leaving? Become that person. Talk to others to help them through the process, and create a mentor/mentee relationship with them. This is also a great way to start articulating your experiences abroad, giving you extra practice for those interviews.

Identify organizations who value intercultural skills and experiences

With your newfound international experience, you will be a great asset to companies that pride themselves on global and intercultural values. Look for these companies in your field of interest and start applying.

Plan your next trip!

Odds are, once you get back from being abroad, you’re going to want to go back again. The travel bug doesn’t leave you. Start planning your next trip to somewhere new and use your refined travel skills! 


About the Author: 

Stephanie LassStephanie Lass served as a Student Career Advisor with the Career Planning & Development Center for three years. In May 2018, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing, double minors in Sociology and Scriptwriting, and a certificate in Professional Writing. In the fall of 2016, Stephanie studied abroad in Leiden, the Netherlands. She traveled to several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece. In her free time, she writes fiction, watches movies and TV, plays video and board games, and eats junk food.

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