We’ve all heard that the job market is difficult these days, and it will take something special to set your application apart from the others. What better way to show you’re capable of being thrown into unfamiliar situations and thriving than by signing up to study abroad in a foreign country?
It may sound scary or expensive, but if you consider everything you’ll gain from spending a semester abroad in Barcelona, as opposed to sticking around that boring college town you’re in now, you may earn a better chance at scoring offers for jobs and internships upon graduating.
What to look for when choosing a program
When working on my undergraduate degree in journalism, I decided to study abroad my junior year. My first step was going to the Academic Programs Abroad office on campus. There I was able to look at the different programs offered and make an appointment to meet with an advisor. I narrowed down the country I wanted to visit (England) and the school I would be able to apply for (The University of Derby). Advisors will also help in answering any questions you may have about transfer credits, financial aid and travel requirements such as Visas or required vaccinations.
Things to keep in mind when choosing a program:
- Are the classes applicable to your chosen major/minor?
- What kind of financial assistance are you eligible for?
- Will your current health insurance provider cover you while abroad?
- Do you speak the language or will you have to learn it?
- Is it endorsed by your current college?
- Who else from the U.S. will be there at the same time?
- How many weeks is the program?
How studying abroad will help your career
According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released in November, 2011, “Study abroad by students enrolled in U.S. higher education has more than tripled over the past two decades.”
IES, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that places over 5,000 students from 185 U.S. colleges abroad each year, conducted a survey with 50 years worth of alumni. The results of the survey reported that 76 percent of respondents “acquired skill sets while studying abroad that influenced their career path.” Sixty-two percent of respondents reported that “studying abroad ignited an interest in a career direction pursued after the experience,” and 48 percent of respondents “have worked internationally or participated in volunteer activities since studying abroad.”
As the Huffington Post‘s Justin Pope reports in the September 25, 2011 article, studying abroad should be about pushing limits and getting outside of your comfort zone. “American Students Studying Abroad Pushed Out Of Comfort Zone ‘Bubbles’” reports that more and more programs in the U.S. are sending students off to foreign lands without the comforts of America at arm’s reach. When going on field trips, “one Australian program makes students leave their iPods and sometimes all electronic devices back home,” which helps “them focus on their experiences,” writes Pope.
If you surround yourself with other Americans, spend your free time chatting on Facebook and only listen to American music, you’ll never truly reap the benefits of what the study abroad program was designed for.
Applying your new knowledge
Michigan State University offers wrap-up presentations for students who have participated in a study abroad program. At the program, students learn how to apply their newfound skills, knowledge and experiences to their future in the job force.
MSU lists skills that would be applicable to any job or internship:
- Ability to work independently
- Adapting to situations of change
- Allocating time effectively
- Applying information to new or broader contexts
- Interacting with people who hold different interests, values, or perspectives
- Assessing impacts of decisions
- Being dependable
- Undertaking tasks that are unfamiliar/risky
Other benefits of studying abroad
According to the November 14, 2011 news post titled “MSU: Top 10 in study abroad participation, international students,” on Michigan State University News, MSU will offer an innovative new program for freshman beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. The program, titled “Freshman Seminar Abroad, in China,” will blend college life and international affairs for first-year students.
“Recognizing the first year of college plays a crucial role in student success and readiness for intercultural learning, MSU has blended lessons from its study abroad programming with principles from on-campus freshman seminars. The result is an innovative program, Freshman Seminar Abroad, which was developed with the university’s associate provost for undergraduate education,” says the author.
When looking for a study abroad program that fits your needs, don’t be scared to look outside of your own college campus for options. Just be sure to speak with an advisor to verify that the credits will transfer. Securing the opportunity to study abroad in college can unlock unlimited possibilities for personal growth as well as potential networking for your future career.