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Career Value of Study Abroad

In an increasingly global society, your global learning experience is incredibly salient in the workplace. Check out the information below for information about specific ways studying abroad enhances your resume and professional development.

In 2017, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released a list of eight “Career Competencies.” Compiled through extensive research with employers, these competencies are identified as necessary for students to be career ready upon graduation. Career Readiness is defined as “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.”

Employers look for a variety of engagement on a student’s resume, including Study Abroad and Volunteering. Studying abroad can provide experiences that contribute to students’ career readiness in a variety of ways. Most specifically in Global and Intercultural Fluency: Value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. The individual demonstrates openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.

Your global learning provides unique opportunities to engage with people from other cultures, understand and value our differences, and learn about workplace behavior and expectations in other cultures. The American workplace is a diverse mix of cultures, races, ages, genders and sexual orientations, and many jobs require engaging with people around the world.



Check out the graphic above to see how some of the skills you’ll be building while abroad will directly relate to career competence. We’ve also got some suggestions from UST Study Abroad Returnees, on why it’s important to engage with your host culture while abroad:

“My first thought was [to do it] as a sign of respect. This country is hosting you and like any good guest, one would and should abide by the rules of their host. Along with that, it allows to deeper engagement with those who live in that country. It is far less intimidating to connect inter-culturally if the two participates are willing to engage with one another.”

-Anthony Tran-Vu, London

All opinions aside, engaging with your host culture is where the “real” learning outside the classroom takes place. It can be one of the most rewarding experiences of you let it be. It is something you can come home to try to describe to your friends and family, but can never fully capture unless you learn how and why other people live the way they do.

-Nick Vipond, Denmark

Students who study abroad have the opportunity to build a variety of skills and attributes that are valuable to employers. Below you see a chart of the top 20 Skills employers seek on a candidate’s resume, as gathered from NACE in 2018.

NACE Skills

Study abroad is not a vacation – through this experience you can engage in a variety of activities – volunteering, interning, language learning and cultural immersion – that will help you build and develop these skills and attributes.

We asked students who studied abroad the things they learned and ways that they chose to build some of these skills:

I think the skill that I got better at without realizing it, was the ability to keep an open mind about topics, issues, and subjects that I did not know much about. This ranged to everything from topical issues in the news, to cultural practices that I was unaware of. … It was the ability to listen and keep an open mind which helped me understand the cultural differences that exists between being abroad and being back home in the US. (Skills highlighted include Interpersonal Skills, Tactfulness & Initiative)

-Nick Vipond, Denmark

Best way to build new skills?

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Many of these skills will be developed when you do something you’re not comfortable with. Also, have confidence in your abilities. You can overcome and manage obstacles/situations more effectively than you think. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and develop your skills when you take on this challenging scenarios.

-Zach Mader, Spain

It’s no secret that learning a second (or third, or fourth) language is a good idea. Besides being one of the top skills employers look for in a resume, speaking other languages opens up a world of possibilities for collaborating and helping people from other countries and cultures.

The best possible way to build fluency in another language is to immerse yourself in a setting where you are surrounded by native speakers. While studying abroad you have the opportunity to live with host families and participate in specific programs that focus on language immersion. Take a history class in Spanish, go on a scavenger hunt in a French market and speak only French.

 With language learning naturally comes cultural learning – contributing to your global and intercultural fluency! The many nuances of languages are vastly influenced by history and culture and can provide great skills and insight for working cross cultures.

Research Abroad

Several programs have opportunities to incorporate research into your study abroad experience. If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, or just want to pursue your major in greater depth, research is a great resume builder, and doing it while abroad strengthens your global learning experience.

You may need to be flexible with the exact focus of your research, and you may also be able to work with experienced faculty doing field and lab-based research.