The Benefits of Studying Abroad While in College

To those who have not experienced it, studying abroad may seem like four months of traveling, partying, and taking a ton of pictures, but in reality, spending a semester overseas enables students to gain life skills that can eventually be used in the workplace.

According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers: Association of International Educators, only 283,332 US students studied abroad during the 2011-2012 school year. While this number may seem large, it means that only one percent of the millions of college students in America study in other countries.

“A relatively small amount of students study abroad, so just by telling your potential employer that you have studied abroad, that you’ve gotten on a plane and taken that kind of initiative, makes you unique among a lot of other students,” said William Hill, Assistant Dean of Career Services. “It makes you stand out.”

Robyn Asaro, Assistant Director of Study Abroad, said that studying abroad brings about independence and resilience in students. It also creates openness which, in her opinion, is the mark of being truly educated.

In most cases, students who have traveled abroad return home to the United States feeling much more self-confident than they had at the start of their travels. Many employers look to hire students who embody an air of certainty and assurance, especially when it comes to making decisions and working on projects.

This characteristic is generally found in students who have made the decision to study in another country.

“Studying abroad is a bold move,” said Hill. “And I think employers perceive that self-confidence as a good thing to have as an employee.”

Alexis Morrison, a junior communication major, recently spent a semester in Sydney, Australia. With the hopes of one day working for a broadcast television station, Morrison is aware of the fact that she will eventually move out of NJ and end up working in either NY or CA. “Studying abroad showed that I’m independent and that I can live on my own and still get the job done,” Morrison said.

According to the Faculty Director of Study Abroad, Chris Hirschler, “Studying abroad is reported to improve independence, the ability to navigate new situations and geography, and cultural competence. Students learn how to more accurately evaluate their own culture and other cultures.”

It is imperative for students looking for jobs in a global economy to understand that they will eventually come into contact with men and women of different cultures. Being understanding of different customs and cultures is important if a student wants to succeed in their intended career field.

“Companies want to know that you’re going to be culturally sensitive and that you’re not going to be prejudice against someone just because they have an accent,” said Asaro.

When students think about gaining all of these skills, as well as the knowledge and experience necessary to find a job after graduation, internships are usually the first thought that crosses their mind.

Most people do not realize, however, that studying abroad allows students to have the time of their lives while also acquiring many important skills that employers value.

“Ideally, students will intern while studying abroad so that they learn specific job-related skills in another culture. They can then apply what they’ve learned in the organization that hires them,” said Hirschler.

Although it is possible, in some cases, for students to intern while they are abroad, it is not always guaranteed. But that should not stop anyone from traveling overseas during his or her time in college because it is the experience that students gain from their time abroad that might land them an internship, and eventually a paid job, back in America.

According to Asaro, “You could go intern even if you get out of college and can’t find a job, but when you study abroad in college the idea is that you’re taking courses toward your degree while at the same time traveling and being abroad. So it’s kind of hard to do that once you’re out of college. It’s really a now or never kind of thing.”

Practically every student’s goal is to graduate college with a degree and all of the skills necessary to get a job in their field of interest. Skills like problem solving, risk-taking, and higher self-confidence are all characteristics that most employers look for in future employees. Spending a semester abroad allows students to attain all of these skills.

According to Hirschler, even though “employers do usually tend to notice the study abroad line on an applicant’s résumé, then it is up to the job seeker to sell their experience during the interview.”

PHOTO COURTESY of Louis Garbarini