How to Convey the Benefits of Studying/Interning Abroad

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The value of studying and/or interning abroad is incomparable. You will learn more than you can ever imagine and grow in ways impossible to do if you remained at home. But how do you convey this to your friends, who might have never left the country before?  To your parents, who might be helping you pay for your program abroad?  Most importantly, to a future employer in an interview setting or to a graduate school selection committee?

Utilize the P-A-R-K Method to help you reflect and verbalize on your new skill set:  Problem or need;  Action(s) you took;  Result(s) you achieved; Knowledge or skills gained.  Some specific examples, that simply cannot be learned while in our comfort zone / at home:  Developing international professional competencies • Communicating across two languages effectively • Solving problems • Balancing work abroad and life abroad • Embracing change • Working effectively in a cross cultural team • Working in a diverse environment • Managing time and priorities • Navigating across boundaries • Acquiring knowledge • Thinking critically.

It can be difficult to articulate what is learned or developed while interning abroad. Make no mistake, such an experience does have a positive effect on your marketability. A study conducted at the University of Michigan (*) sheds clear light on the favorable traits, gained or enhanced by experience abroad, companies are looking for. Specifically, the study showed that 35%-50% of employers surveyed valued traits including:

  • Interacting with people who hold different interests, values, or perspectives.
  • Understanding cultural differences in the workplace
  • Adapting to situations of change
  • Gaining new knowledge from experiences
  • Ability to work independently
  • Undertaking tasks that are unfamiliar/risky
  • Applying information in new or broader contexts
  • Identifying new problems/solutions to problems
  • Working effectively with co-workers

So, when you are entering the work force as an intern or study abroad alum, make sure to highlight the traits above in your resume or interview. Make sure to document many of your PARK situations. And remember, according to Gardner et al. (2008), “The value of study abroad depends on how well the student can reflect on his or her experience”, or what is referred to as ‘Unpacking’ your abroad experience.

– Adelante Abroad

(*) Gardner, Gross, & Steglitz (2008) Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience: Critical Reflection for Workplace Competencies. CERI Research Brief 1-2008. Collegiate Employment Research Institute. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State UniversityT-Shaped