Editor’s Note: Features Writer Michelle Immel is currently studying abroad for a semester in Salamanca, Spain with the International Studies Abroad program.
For many students, the experience of studying abroad is a drastic departure from their normal routine. Many students learn to acclimate to strange foods, adjust to new cultural norms, adapt to “culture shock” and return with a unique skill set, that recent studies show employers are looking for.
In a 2007 survey, conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers of new graduates were found to seek the following skills: verbal and written communication, interpersonal competence, the ability to engage in teamwork, computer proficiency and refined analytical skills.
According to nafsa.org, a leading organization for careers in international education, students who have studied abroad consistently perform well in these areas. This can give them a greater advantage among peers when applying for entry-level jobs out of college.
From the employer’s perspective, studying abroad sets graduates apart in the interview process. It also gives them the potential to be used as assets for international companies looking to do business with the United States, said Jose Ortega-Mohedano, chief marketing officer for tulecom.com, a medical information tech company with headquarters in Salamanca.
“When hiring new [entry level] employees, seeing international coursework on a resume is very beneficial, because it shows that the student has a background and understanding of more than one culture” Ortega-Mohedano said.
“U.S. students have the advantage of knowing the U.S. market and customs, which makes them a more competitive employment candidate for international companies that are looking into current or future development into the U.S. market,” he said.
For many students who return from abroad, the experience of studying and being immersed in another culture can lead the way into a rewarding career. Some former students acquire jobs working with a university or private study abroad company as an advisor, director or study abroad program representative.
“In this tough job market I was able to find a job working at the UC Davis Education Abroad Center thanks to my international experiences in Germany, Greece and China – all through UC Davis study abroad offerings” said Camran Sadeghi, outreach coordinator for the UC Davis Education Abroad Center.
“It really helps to have studied abroad, and many people get into the field of International Education because their experience abroad was so rewarding that they want to aid others who want to take the plunge and study abroad,” he said.
For many students, experience with international culture can inspire the desire to teach, or become involved with philanthropic and non-profit organizations as potential future career paths.
Alice Young, junior international relations and Spanish double major, currently studying abroad in Madrid with UC EAP said she is considering a career in the international non-profit sector.
“Studying abroad in Madrid has definitely opened my eyes to better understand another culture, and has encouraged me to look for work opportunities abroad,” she said. “I had the idea coming into the program, but actually being abroad has further sparked my interest in doing this as a career, and maybe even living abroad for awhile.”
Taking five upper division courses in Spanish and living with a host family, Young has embraced the opportunity to achieve fluency in the Spanish language, and has developed a cultural understanding that she believes will serve her in the future, regardless of what career she chooses to pursue.
“Even if I don’t end up working in another country, this has been an incredible experience, and I feel like it has made me a lot more marketable in general- especially in California, where a lot of people speak Spanish, so it’s a great skill to have,” she said.
For more information about careers in international education, visit nafsa.org.
MICHELLE IMMEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.