by Barbara Jolie, frequent contributor to Online Classes
College students enroll in study abroad programs for a variety of reasons. Some want to improve their foreign language skills, others are excited about experiencing a different culture, and still others are looking for a change of scenery after spending several semesters at one academic institution. Whatever the reasons behind a student’s desire to study abroad, it’s important for faculty advisors to help them make the most of their experience.
While emphasizing personal growth, foreign language skills, and cultural understanding is valuable in its own right, faculty should also explain to students how they can turn their time spent overseas into an experience that adds substance to their resume. According to an Associated Content article, employers value candidates who have studied abroad as students. The article describes a survey of 119 employers conducted at the Career Center of the University of North Carolina. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said that a study abroad or other overseas experience would be valuable in a potential employee’s experience at some point in their career within the organization.
Faculty can be catalysts for this future career-building opportunity by guiding their students to take their study abroad experience seriously and engage in their courses and the local culture as much as possible. As Stacie Berdan, author of “Get Ahead by Going Abroad: A Woman’s Fast Track Career Success”, noted in a Today’s Campus article:
“Employers want to know a student can usefully bring international experiences to work. If it was a fun three months in Rome, an employer may not be impressed… If a student studied Spanish in Madrid, Arabic in Cairo, or Japanese in Osaka, while also learning to navigate the culture with a part-time job, tutoring at a local primary school, or serving as a docent at a local museum or historic site, employers will be impressed. In fact, students who immerse themselves and enjoy a rich cross-cultural experience often go to the top of a company’s competitive list of future international transfers. Such stints overseas have catapulted many a career.”
During faculty-led study abroad programs, enhancing your students’ overseas experience outside the classroom can be accomplished by scouting out focused, extra-curricular opportunities for them. International volunteer and internship positions abound in many popular study abroad locations. Also, coaching students on how to articulate their study abroad experiences to potential employers will better prepare them for job interviews.
Of course, studying abroad is a valuable experience in and of itself. However, giving your students a career angle to think about as they study abroad can maximize the returns on their time spent overseas.
This guest post was written by freelance writer Barbara Jolie, who frequently contributes to online classes. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.