How To Market Your Study Abroad Experience

You took the time and initiative to go overseas and had an amazing time there, but now you’re back, wondering where to go from here and are in need of a job. Make the most of an overseas experience and put your best foot forward with these five tips.

Put It On Your Resume.

It sounds like a no brainer, right? Since your potential future employer is not a mind reader, they will have no idea you did a Community Engagement program in South Africa unless it’s highlighted on your resume. Depending on the type of program you did, your international experience can fit under Education, Work, Internship, Volunteer, or Career-Related headings. You can also create a separate heading on your resume for International Experience; which is especially useful if you’ve gone abroad more than once. If you’re not sure exactly how to incorporate it, utilize the resources on campus (the career center, the writing center, the international education office, and the alumni office).

WIIFT (aka, What’s In It For Them?)

Show why your overseas experience makes you the best candidate for their job and highlight that in your resume and cover letter. The more you are able to articulate how volunteering for a semester in Cambodia prepared you to be an asset for their company, the better. Look to their job description and use their action verbs to your advantage. Words like: aided, collaborated, innovated, created, navigated, and negotiated, will help your resume stand out.

“Specificity Kills Ambiguity.”

My improv teacher, Susan Messing, told me this in class and it rings as true for good scene work as it does for solid resumes and answering questions in job interviews. Don’t just say you studied abroad in Spain; give the exact city, university and classwork. The more engaging you are in presenting the experience, both on your resume and in-person, the more the employer will want to listen.

Don’t Undersell Yourself.

You didn’t just visit Paris to get pictures of the Eiffel Tower or go to Italy to eat your way through Rome’s gelaterias. You successfully navigated a second culture, gained independence, learned how to adapt, and had a sense of humor about it. Even if the reasons you initially chose to go abroad were perhaps not as complex as some of your peers, your time abroad changed you. Take the time to process your experience, inventory what you learned, and be able to show it on paper and in-person.

Practice Makes Perfect.

Getting your resume prepared and your elevator pitch(the 30 seconds you have to get someone’s attention) refined takes time and a lot of practice. Make sure you have several sets of eyes review your resume to find spelling and continuity mistakes. Rehearse your elevator pitch in the shower, on your drive to school, and before you go to bed each night. The more you practice your stories and responses to interview questions, the more natural they will be when you deliver them in an interview. If they don’t bring it up, it’s your responsibility to know how to work it into your answers (when applicable). You’re one of the 2 percent that has studied abroad, so use that unique experience to your advantage!

angela-ManginelliAuthor: Angela Manginelli

Angela Manginelli is a Regional Director, University Relations for the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). She has been with AIFS since 2009 and works with universities across the U.S. to advise college students about studying abroad. She is also a member of the Forum on Education Abroad Best Practices for Returned Students Working Group, and the Vice President and New Conference Liaison for Lessons From Abroad, Inc., an organization that works with returnee study abroad students.

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