In today’s job market, recent college graduates face tough competition for good careers. And often, employers make hiring decisions based not just on your education, but on your personality, your life experience and your general outlook on the world. So if you want to gain a competitive advantage in the job market, studying abroad is a good idea.

How studying abroad can help you get a job

Study AbroadStudying abroad is a great way to show potential employers that you are inquisitive and willing to step out of your comfort zone, just to learn more about other cultures and people. And on a functional level, employers can rest assured that a new employee won’t suffer a meltdown during the installation of a new company phone system if she made it through six weeks in a Guatemalan jungle.

Another perk of studying abroad is that you may have a working knowledge of a foreign language. And if you happen to be fluent in another language, that’s a big plus for employers – especially businesses that have offices in other countries. As you consider study abroad programs, think about how they align with your career goals, and choose a program that will make you stand out among your peers, when a potential employer is sifting through a mountain of resumes.

Why unfamiliar territory is a good thing

While most colleges have always offered optional study abroad programs, some schools are now specifically requiring the completion of a cross-cultural experience as part of the degree program. The classes are designed not only to introduce United States students to other cultures, but to give them some experience adapting to new and unpredictable situations.

Academic advisers can help educate students and parents about what the study-abroad experience requires, such as:

  • Documents necessary for travel
  • Travel insurance
  • How to arrange for housing
  • What items to pack
  • Transportation options in the destination country

And schools can also tell you what isn’t required – fluency in a foreign language, for example.

Colleges with highest participation in study abroad programs

Participation in study abroad programs varies by college, with the highest participation at schools that require some international study to obtain a degree. According to education reporter Kelsey Sheehy, Goucher College, in Maryland, and Soka University of America, in California, both report that 100 percent of its 2011 graduates studied abroad (international study is required before graduation from these colleges).

According to the Goucher College website, the school currently has 95 students studying in 21 countries around the world, including Chile, Australia, China and India. Goucher requires students who are majoring in a foreign language (Spanish, French or German) to spend one semester abroad. 

Soka University, a private, non-profit university, has programs concentrated in Central and South America, Asia and Spain, as well as international internship opportunities. Tuition runs around $27,000 per year, but that includes the cost of study abroad, and financial assistance is available for qualified students. Students must be at least a junior and take a language proficiency test before being admitted to any of Soka’s study abroad programs.

Making time for study abroad

Studying abroad can be an enormously valuable learning experience to a young person, providing life-long lessons, perspective and the ability to adapt to new situations. Employers are now recognizing the value of these character traits, and universities offer a wide range of opportunities for students to gain study abroad experience. Whether students choose a brief summer excursion or a full-semester study abroad program, the experience is worth the time and money. 

This is a guest post by Cassandra Lynne who is an avid traveler and adventure seeker. While she was in college, she studied abroad in Blois, France, during her senior year. She knows the importance of properly preparing yourself for your international studies by having your passport, purchasing a travel insurance policy and properly packing for the climate of your temporary home country.

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