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Benefits of Studying Abroad

How studying abroad develops personal skills that translate to the workplace and help you standout in the job market.

Working or studying abroad will both challenge you and strengthen your interpersonal skills. Student often cite how the experience has led to intellectual, cultural, and personal development. What is too often understated is how the experience can set you apart in the job market by strengthening interpersonal skills employers’ value in candidates. Regardless of your chosen career, a well-planned study abroad experience is a valuable asset and will strengthen your resume and bring your career goals within reach.

Develop Valuable Skills/Competencies

Study abroad provides a great opportunity to develop and strengthen your interpersonal and intercultural skills and set yourself apart in the job market. Intercultural skills help you interact and relate with people from different cultural backgrounds and are becoming increasingly more important in today’s globalized workplace. Interpersonal skills or competencies are personal qualities that relate to how you interact with people and solve problems. Good interpersonal skills improve your productivity and are highly valued by employers. A strong resume and cover letter will include examples that showcase your interpersonal skills. 

Strong interpersonal skills give you a competitive edge over other applicants. - National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2014

According to the Job Outlook 2014 report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), there are seven skills that most employers want to see in candidates. These skills include: written and verbal communication skills, leadership skills, analytical or quantitative skills, strong work ethic, ability to work in teams, and problem-solving skills. The employers were asked to rank the importance of these skills. The top skills identified by employers in the report as “very important” are: the ability to work in a team, problem-solving skills, organization and time management skills, verbal communication skills, and analytical and quantitative thinking. According to the NACE report, students that illustrate their abilities in these areas have a competitive edge against applicants with similar academic qualifications.

Skills valued as "very important" by employers (NACE 2014):

  • Ability to Work in Teams
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Organization and Time Management
  • Verbal Communication Skills
  • Analytical and Quantitative Thinking Skills

Demonstrating valuable interpersonal skills on a resume is very challenging. Most student rely on student organizations and extracurricular activities to demonstrate their interpersonal competencies. Students that have studied abroad have a unique context with which to highlight their interpersonal skills on their resumes and standout.

It is not enough to list a study abroad on your resume and assume that the employer will connect it to the development of interpersonal skills. Students must explain how their experience abroad is an asset for employers. Emphasis the “results” of the experience over where you went and what you did. Below is a list of interpersonal skills that are important to the workplace and you may have developed during your international experience. Try to think of specific situations you encountered that demonstrated your competency in these skills and summarize them on your resume. If you use your study abroad experience on your resume to highlight specific interpersonal skills that align with the needs of the job description your application will stand out in the job market.

Here is a list of skills that could be developed during international experiences:

  • Coping skills and crisis management
  • Communication skills (overcome language barriers)
  • Broad and strategic thinking
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Intercultural competencies
  • Tolerance and open-mindedness
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Organization and time management skills
  • Respect for protocol and hierarchy
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to view situations from unique perspectives
  • Innovative, able to take risks
  • Patience and Perseverance
  • Self-reliance and responsibility

Gain Global Competency

Global competency relates to your personal awareness and respect for other cultural perspectives and norms. It is developed by exposure to multicultural environments and increased international awareness and understanding. Your ability to adapt and be flexible in unfamiliar situations and to effectively communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries during your international experience are a sign of global competency.

In today’s globalized workplace, global competency is critical to the future success of businesses. Increasingly more employees are finding themselves working in an international context without ever leaving their office as they interact with clients and collaborate with companies from around the world. The global economy has become a strong factor impacting domestic economies and global competency is critical to the continued vitality of businesses in a variety of industries. Industries in general are beginning to value more and more employees that are aware of international social and cultural norms and can view problems from an international context.

Studying abroad develops global competency and demonstrate to employers that you are equipped to work effectively in today’s globalized workplace.

Discover Alternative Career Paths

Studying abroad can open your eyes to a plethora of job opportunities for your major that are beyond what you envision. Seeing different situations in which your discipline can be applied globally can help you reach for the stars and find the position that best suits your personal interests and goals.

Additional Resources

Find out about international career opportunities as they become available by signing up to the international jobs listserv. Send a request to Melanie Miller Foster at  mjm727@psu.edu.

Visit our International Career Resources

page for a database of organizations with international agriculture career opportunities.