Leveraging Your Study Abroad Experience
Kelsie Stanley, SAI
November 25, 2014

Kelsie studied abroad with SAI Programs in  Florence (Spring 2012) and Sorrento (Summer 2013). Upon graduating from the University of South Carolina she began working with SAI as the University Relations Associate. Below are some of her tips for how to transfer your study abroad experience into a resume, cover letter and interview.

Kelsie Stanley

I hope this article will be useful and can inspire students to use their study abroad experience to the fullest.

During my first study abroad experience with SAI, I became enthralled with international education. Upon my first return, I took part in the SAI Ambassador program to promote international education at the University of South Carolina. While I was abroad for the second time I applied for an internship in the SAI home office in Sebastopol, California and was awarded a paid internship during the following summer. I was then able to learn about study abroad from a program provider’s standpoint and decided that I wanted to pursue a career in international education. My junior year I participated in the SAI Ambassador program again while I applied for an internship in Italy and also was awarded a Peer Leader position for the University of South Carolina’s Business in Turkey trip. That summer I traveled throughout Eastern Europe before arriving in Italy and working as a marketing intern at Sant’Anna Institute. While I interned, I learned about international education from a foreign university’s point of view and once again, was captivated. My final year of undergrad was spent working at the University of South Carolina’s study abroad office promoting SAI and study abroad in general. This was another eye-opening experience working at a U.S. higher education institution’s study abroad office. After that experience, I was certain that this was the field for me and I am so thankful that SAI had an entry-level position open right after graduation. I am now working for the company that started my love of international education and now every day of work is meaningful knowing that I am helping students start their journeys abroad and hopefully some of them fall in love with international education the way I did and pursue a career in it.

With the rapidly expanding global marketplace, employers are looking for candidates who have been exposed to and understand cross-cultural needs. When students return from abroad, it’s time to start thinking of their experience as value added to their professional portfolio. Even if the career they are pursuing isn’t international in theme or scope, they have gained skills that are applicable to any future professional situation. The next challenge is being able to communicate the skills and qualities they gained abroad and translate them to the workplace.

The exposure to new environments that study abroad students experience not only makes them more flexible to adapt to new surroundings and changing environments but it also helps to develop knowledge, skills and abilities that are desirable in any professional setting. Employers are looking for people who can understand other points of view, think globally, problem-solve, think on their feet; people who can jump into new situations with initiative and willingness to learn; people with good communication, conflict-resolution and relationship-building skills.

Some qualifications that are enhanced in most international experiences include: some level of foreign language proficiency, increased independence, cultural competency, and greater flexibility. Students also leave their foreign experience with increased confidence, independence and initiative while also being more aware of global, political, and economic issues. All of those are transferable skills. Thus, it is essential that students leverage their study abroad experience in their job search, especially in their resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Below are some tips for resumes, cover letters and interviews:

Cover Letters
  • Discuss how your cultural competencies and other skills developed during study abroad and how they will benefit the employer
  • State that operating in a global arena, and having an international experience are key to working in today’s global market
  • List the program in the education section of your resume
  • If you worked or interned in a team project during study abroad, you can list it in the Work/Professional Experience section of your resume
  • If your resume includes a section for skills, include skills that you acquired or improved while abroad


  • Students can highlight a greater understanding of international market trends and global development opportunities.
  • When answering behavioral questions like, “Tell me about a time you resolved a conflict with a coworker or a classmate,” students can tell about a time they resolved a cultural misunderstanding and weave it into their response.
  • Michelle Obama recently gave an example of what students could use in an interview, “Traveling abroad has provided me with a greater knowledge and appreciation of global communities and how to effectively navigate around communication and cultural barriers.”
  • From studying abroad you’ve interacted with different cultures, managed a budget, planned and organized outings in other countries, gained the ability to adapt to new situations, and communicated across language barriers just to name a few!


Kelsie Stanley

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