Studying abroad is a great way to develop soft skills that employers are looking for in entry-level candidates, such as adaptability, oral communication, and problem-solving. Although you improve these skills by studying and traveling abroad, it’s hard to know exactly how to include them on your resume or how to talk about them in job interviews.
You don’t want to oversell your experience and act like studying abroad was more important than any internships or previous work experience you’ve had. But you also don’t want to underplay the significance of your experience, because studying abroad does make you a more desirable job candidate and a better employee. Here’s how to include study abroad on your resume and talk about it with potential employers.
Reference studying abroad in your cover letter.
When applying for remote jobs the summer after I returned from studying abroad, I talked about my semester abroad in my cover letters. When I studied abroad, I continued my job as copy editor of my campus newspaper from overseas. I pointed out in my cover letters that by working remotely, I learned how to communicate with others effectively over email and text and how to problem solve on my own when my co-workers were asleep. Showing potential employers that I already had developed these soft skills helped me earn multiple remote internships that summer.
List studying abroad on your resume’s education section.
Most resumes include an education section that includes basic information such as the college you attended, your degree(s), your GPA, etc. On my resume, I have “Studied abroad in Italy and Germany in spring 2016” in my education section along with my GPA and degree. This calls attention to my international experience right away, and most recruiters and employers can deduce the soft skills that come with this experience. If you have a personal professional website, consider dedicating a full page to where you studied and what you learned abroad.
Play up the soft skills you developed studying abroad.
Even though employers have a general idea of the soft skills that you develop as a student studying abroad, it’s a good idea to remind them exactly what those skills are. If you have a skills section on your resume, include skills you developed abroad, like working independently, adaptability, and problem-solving. (Need help thinking of the right words for your many, many skills? Check out this list of soft skills.)
You can also add these soft skills to your LinkedIn skills section. Just remember that you’ll have to demonstrate in interviews and in your work that you do have these soft skills, so don’t exaggerate them! (This is why I highlight my written communication skills but not oral communication skills. I would do a disservice to myself and to any potential employers to pretend that I’m great at talking or public speaking.)
Note any volunteer experiences while abroad.
Some study abroad programs include service opportunities or mission trips. For example, my semester abroad included a week of teaching English to students in Hungary. I added that experience to my Volunteer Experience section of my LinkedIn profile. It’s not something that I need to call much attention to—and it’s not on my resume—but it’s another small way to show that I have experienced things outside my comfort zone while studying abroad and grown as a person.
Point out any languages you learned while abroad.
If you learned a language while overseas, add it to your resume and LinkedIn profile! The demand for bilingual workers in the United States has doubled in the past five years, so if you’ve studied another language, you’ve a more desirable job candidate. Of course, don’t pretend to be fluent in German if you only took a six-week German course; lying about your language skills only sets you up for a very awkward experience.
Even if the job or internship you’re applying for doesn’t require you to know a foreign language, it’s helpful for employers to know that you could be useful if an opportunity arises.
Use your international experiences when answering interview questions.
If you don’t have a wealth of work experience to discuss, it’s especially helpful to pull examples from your international travel in interviews. When an interviewer asks about a time you had to work with a group of people to accomplish something, talk about the time you and your friends had to figure out how to get to the airport from the middle of Berlin with no cash and dead cell phones. When an interviewer asks for three words that describe you, pull out “adaptable” or “explorer” or “open to new experiences” (okay, that’s four words, but you get the idea). Then use that word to talk about your travels and how those experiences have made you a better candidate for the internship or job.
Studying abroad is a fantastic way to grow as a person and develop skills you might not otherwise develop. Knowing how to best advertise your experience to potential employers is key to landing your next internship or job.
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