Study abroad experience has never been more valuable in the job market. Hiring managers across the country keep emphasizing the importance of study abroad experience in job applicants, and students with study abroad experience report significantly increased job prospects at graduation. So, what can you do to make sure you get the most out of your study abroad experience?
Get out of the box
Going abroad is an opportunity for you to expand your horizons and challenge yourself, but before you can do that, it's often important to step outside of your assumptions about the way studying should be. What are your long-term goals, and what's the best way to accomplish them? When deciding on a path, don't assume that the traditional way of doing things is going to work for you.
Don't be afraid of a challenge
One of the big criticisms of American study abroad programs is that they allow students to travel abroad without exiting a comfortable cultural bubble. You may be studying in Pisa or Hamburg, but you're surrounded by other Americans and are never forced to really engage with the community around you. When considering the prospect of studying abroad, think about what you really want to get out of the experience. If you do want the traditional approach, go with that. But don't be afraid to push yourself - it will be tough at first, but you'll reap the rewards when you return a legitimately changed person.
Learn the Language
Many traditional American exchange programs incorporate language courses as an afterthought and don't confer any lasting skills. Make learning the language a centerpiece of your abroad experience and you'll gain skills that will last you a lifetime. One way to do this is to enroll in an intensive university-prep language course instead of a standard low-intensity class. Even if you don't plan to study abroad full time, a year studying the language intensively will give you the foundation you'll need to work in a foreign language environment in the future and open up doors to opportunities that you aren't even thinking about right now.
Think long term before and after
One of the most difficult things to do in an interview is to make an impression. Managers receive hundreds or thousands of applicants for entry-level positions, and many of them look more or less the same. Study abroad is a great way to set yourself apart. If you decide to pursue your degree full-time abroad, you're very likely to be the only person the hiring manager has ever interviewed who did so. You'll also be able to use the stories from your time abroad to leave a lasting impression of who you are as a person and as a potential employee. Whatever skills you want to emphasize - leadership, initiative, management skills, etc - you'll be able to clearly show these by illustrating them through your experience abroad.