How to Highlight Your Study Abroad Experience in a Job Interview
Studying abroad is a chance to develop crucial skills that can prepare you for your career down the road. Upon returning home from a semester or year overseas, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint how to use your international experience as a selling point on your resume or in a job interview.
Below are four key skills that can easily relate to a study abroad experience: foreign language, adaptability, independence/self reliance, and cross-cultural communication. These are all great skills to include on your resume. But more importantly, you will need to be able to provide specific examples that highlight these qualities in a way that will impress your future employer during a job interview. Here is a closer look at each of these skills, and how to think of compelling examples for each. With a little bit of self-reflection, you will be able to use your study abroad experience to get the job offer you’ve been hoping for.
Foreign language skills
Having knowledge of a second language is quite valuable, even if you don’t consider yourself to be completely fluent. If you’ve studied and lived in a country that speaks another language, and are at least conversationally proficient in that language, you should definitely put this skill on your resume.
Apart from simply speaking a second language, what will likely impress a potential employer and make you stand out during a job interview is discussing the various environments in which you used the foreign language to function. Think back on your time overseas and the different situations when knowledge of that language was crucial: school, public, social life or work, just to name a few. Expressing your ability to prosper in various situations will demonstrate the depths of your skills and, more importantly, will tie in more meaningfully with the other skills listed below. It will also tell your employer about your personality and enthusiasm to learn new things.
Being adaptable when facing new circumstances will look good to your potential employer because they will get a sense of how you respond to stressful situations and sudden change.
When you think about it, everything having to do with traveling overseas requires a student to be adaptable. From the moment you stepped foot off the plane in another country, you were probably faced with unfamiliar situations that required you to go beyond your comfort zone and adapt to new ways of life.
Take some time to reflect on your time you spent abroad, and think of some obvious differences between your home and host country. Be able to describe specific steps you took in order to overcome culture shock and adapt to local customs, or ways that you changed your daily life in order to function successfully in a different society. Using these as examples during an interview will tell your potential employer that you will be an adaptable employee and a positive asset to the work environment.
Self-reliance and independence
Portraying your self-reliance and independence in an interview can leave a very good impression on a potential employer. From the employer’s perspective, an employee with these qualities will be able to make good decisions on his or her own in daily tasks and projects.
Having traveled to another country and balancing your studies and personal life in a foreign environment speaks to your self-reliance and independence. To more specifically highlight these qualities in an interview, think of an instance while you were abroad when you had to figure out a difficult situation or problem on your own. Be able to describe what the issue was, what you did and what resources you sought out to resolve the issue, and what the final outcome was. Following this format will demonstrate your problem solving skills, as well, and will leave a your potential employer with a great impression.
Being able to effectively communicate with people from other cultures will demonstrate that you can work well on a diverse team of people from various backgrounds.
Think back to ways in which the new cultures you encountered during your time studying abroad were different than the culture at home. Try to think of a specific instance when you had to communicate or relay information to someone of a different culture, and how you made a conscious decision to change the way you communicated based on how you anticipated they would receive the information. Highlighting this experience in an interview can be a great way to show an employer that you will be a great communicator and empathetic to cultural differences in the workplace.
Don’t be afraid to brag!
Sometimes it can be difficult to talk about your personal experiences and accomplishments in a job interview without feeling like you are just bragging about yourself. You shouldn’t have any reason to be afraid of doing this! Studying abroad on your own is a tremendous accomplishment, and you should be proud of what you have done. More importantly, you should feel confident when you talk about your experiences during a job interview. Your potential employer will most likely sense your enthusiasm, and this will leave them with a very positive impression of you.