Align your Career Goals with your Study Abroad Experience
Kelsie, SAI Staff
July 18, 2017

A critical part of the study abroad experience is aligning your career goals with the program you select, and taking action before and during the experience to stay involved in your field of interest. After you return, it is important to translate the experience into marketable skills that employers seek. Below you will find some suggestions for how to align your career goals with your study abroad experience throughout each step in the process:

Before Selecting a Program:

  • Meet with Career Services, your academic advisor, and the study abroad office to see how studying abroad can support your career goals
  • Search for jobs that you are interested in after graduation and highlight the desired skills and traits for the position
  • Research programs that allow you to stay connected to your career goals
    • Does the program have internships or service learning opportunities?
    • Does the program allow you to live with a host family to improve your foreign language proficiency?
    • Does the program offer unique classes in your discipline of study that you can’t take at your university?
  • Interview a student that attended a program that you are interested in and/or a student in your discipline of study that has studied abroad

Once you’ve selected a program, there are a few things to consider before you depart:

  • Consider how your career goals align with the program you’ve selected
  • Make a plan for how to stay connected to your major and career goals
    • Research companies in your field of interest with offices/employees in your destination country
  • Familiarize yourself with your destination country
    • Visit the Department of State website to review your destination country information
    • Study the history and culture, as well as recent news
    • Seek out information on local business etiquette
    • Reach out to locals from your destination country on your campus or in your community to discuss their perspectives and practice the language
  • Consider enrolling in a foreign language course, or utilize phone applications or websites (such as DuoLingo or Rosetta Stone) to familiarize yourself with your destination country’s language

In Country:
While in country, there are many things that you can do to make the most of out of your experience:

  • Keep a journal or blog that details the experiences you are having and skills you are developing. Ask yourself:
    • What challenges are you facing?
    • How have your views of yourself and your culture changed?
    • Consider your reactions in terms of ethnocentrism and ethnorelativism
    • What has learning about your discipline of study and field of interest in a foreign country taught you?
  • Engage with locals
    • Network with professionals in your field of interest
    • Set up meetings or shadowing in your field of interest
    • Ask questions about how business is conducted where you are studying, how culture impacts work, and how your field of interest operates in a global way

Post Study Abroad:
Once you return, it is important to reflect on your study abroad experience and identify ways to market it to potential employers:

  • Reflect on the blog/journal you kept abroad and continue to journal about returning home. Ask yourself:
    • What challenges did you overcome?
    • What did you learn about your major and field of interest?
  • Meet with Career Services and update your resume
    • List the name of the program/institution on resume
    • Consider listing coursework if it is related to job search
    • Consider listing relevant projects, work, or volunteer experience
  • Update your cover letter/LinkedIn account
    • Detail how your study abroad experience is an asset for employers
  • Develop an elevator pitch
    • Keep it between 30-60 seconds
    • Memorize it and practice
    • Highlight skills that you developed while abroad and experiences you had that gave you a new perspective on your discipline of study/field of interest
  • Connect with contacts
    • Connect/reconnect with the contacts you met while abroad
    • Add them as connections on LinkedIn
  • Interview professionals in your field of interest. Ask about:
    • Their career goals prior to studying abroad
    • How studying abroad impacted their career path
  • Attend re-entry seminars to help with reflection and to network with other study abroad alumni

The study abroad experience is truly transformative, both personally and professionally, and using the tools listed above will help ensure that you make the most out of your study abroad experience.

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