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Study Abroad: The Neon Light on a Resume

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Think Ahead to Create Opportunities to Enhance Resume

Before leaving for Australia, I had a list full of items that I needed to pack, important papers I could not forget, and a bucket list full of activities that I HAD to do when arriving in the Gold Coast. I knew I wanted to see a kangaroo, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and travel to as many places as possible in my time abroad. However, one thing I did not consider until further into my study abroad experience was how I was going to get involved on campus and in my community to help me grow and stand out as a student. When using an experience on a resume, employers want to see activities that allowed you to grow in your specific field or in a skill that will aid in your position as an employee. One of the best ways you can do this abroad is by finding a club, internship, job, research project, or volunteer opportunity that pertains to your major or future occupation in some aspect. Some students may wonder why they need to find these activities abroad when they are already involved at their home campus. The truth is, having additional experiences from another country makes you stand out compared to another applicant with the same experiences from the United States. It allows you to do things that you may not have the chance to do at your home university. For example, I had never done a group fitness class before going abroad. I didn’t feel like I had the time and I was always too shy to go with people I did not know. When I was abroad, I tried all types of new activities that would make me step out of my comfort zone. I wanted to find a group that would allow me to see the culture and community of Australians, while also growing personally. So, Zumba it was! There may be many students doing Zumba in the United States, however doing it in Australia may seem more impressive to an employer because it allowed me to gain personal experiences with a new culture, while also meeting new people with different experiences and stories to share.

Studying Abroad is like a Neon Light on a Resume

An employer wants to hire individuals that have real life experiences away from their college campuses. Being able to talk about the internship you had in Paris, for example, is more impressive to discuss than the job you held in the city you grew up in. Having experiences that allowed you to grow more independent, gain cultural awareness, and interact with diverse individuals will set you apart when searching for a job. The first step, however, is to find those opportunities and take advantage! One of the best places to start is to go to a club fair on your host campus. One of the most interesting things I learned when visiting the club fair at Griffith University was that they had a Quidditch Club where they actually played Quidditch on broom sticks (for those of you who are not Harry Potter nerds, this is a game they played in the Harry Potter movies where they actually had flying broomsticks!). Although I chose an opportunity that was not quite as thrilling as joining the Quidditch team, it is still cool to know there are so many options out there to get involved and create unique opportunities that may not be available to you in the United States!

How I Embraced Opportunities Abroad

When I visited the club fair at Griffith, I knew I was going to be there for four months, so I wanted to find a way to get involved. When I learned about a job opportunity with a nonprofit organization called Childs Vision, I applied! Childs Vision is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money to help local families with children who have various diseases. Whether it be a one-time stay at the hospital or a life-threatening illness, Childs Vision helps out with whatever the family needs at the time. With my future goal of working as a Speech Pathologist for special needs children, I knew that experience working with organizations that helped children in that population would be a valuable educational experience for me. I learned more about the background behind the families and what it was like to go through struggles such as having a sick or disabled child. Having this background gave me a better understanding of how to help these children. I was able to learn from the individuals who dedicated their lives to starting this nonprofit. They believed so strongly in helping others that they worked every day to make sure they were raising enough money, interacting with the families they helped, and working hard to ensure that each child was cared for and safe. I saw firsthand compassion, drive, and passion. Each individual that helped me in my journey with Childs Vision was so determined to help others and had so much joy in doing so. I knew then that I made the right decision to work with this nonprofit and my future career choice.

Understand How to Use Your Experience Abroad to Showcase What You Have Learned

Students often think that having study abroad on their resume is enough to impress an employer.  While this is true, in part, it is important to not only say “Study Abroad Experience” on your resume, but to explain how study abroad enhanced your learning experience in some aspect. Employers are not always interested in the same aspects of your trip as your family or friends might be. For example, your family would, more than likely, love to hear about the clubs you joined, the friends you made, and the weekend trips you took. Employers, on the other hand, want to know how your time abroad allowed you to grow as a student and what skills you acquired. One of the best ways to accomplish this in a resume is by making a list of skills you acquired while being part of a certain club, class, research projects and/or job and internship.

Be Able to Talk About Your Experiences

One of the most important steps is being able to put into words what the experience meant to you. When an employer reads on your resume about the experiences you had abroad, they want to be able to hear you speak on those experiences. Be prepared to tell stories, skills you learned, and responsibilities you had while engaging in the experiences. Although I have not done this step yet, as I am still working on my degree, my friend Laura has told me about her personal experiences! Laura and I studied abroad together, and she quickly came to be one of my best friends. Another perk of study abroad! When I asked Laura about using her study abroad experience on a resume and in a job interview, she explained, “I use my experience abroad to show that I work well with people from all backgrounds. In interviews, I make sure to tell the employer about my appreciation for diversity in the workplace, and about how being abroad taught me to be more decisive and independent. Everyday had a new surprise, and I learned to adapt to new situations quickly.”
Laura discussed her experiences studying abroad and how being in another country helped her progress as a student, future employer and a well-rounded person. When using your experiences on a resume, employers learn so much more than the traveling you did, but how being abroad truly changed you as a person and helped you become a more qualified employee.

Make the Light Shine Brighter

Although these are only a few tips for using your study abroad experience on a resume, they will hopefully be a way to get your started on your journey! My final advice is to embrace every opportunity that is thrown at you. Do not be afraid to try new things and do not have any regrets when looking back on your experience. Study abroad is an amazing opportunity, and one that will change your life for the better. Having your experience abroad highlighted on your resume will allow you to stand out from others and make your neon light shine brighter. Good luck on your journey and make the most of every moment!

Lillian Southern is a student at Butler University and studied abroad with IFSA at Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia in 2017.