One of my most valued experiences has been working and studying abroad. These experiences provided me with an opportunity to grow and adapt to new situations, helping me to develop and enhance skills that set me apart from other graduates entering the working world.
As part of my job search, I have been reading a book called You Majored in What?, which encourages the reader to consider the volume of their experinces and the skills that you have developed from these. Studying and working abroad contributed significantly to my personal development; however, before reading this book I hadn’t even considered them as resume-worthy. After reflecting on the job-related skills that an individual can develop while studying abroad, I see how this kind of experience can help a job-seeker stand out.
Not convinced? Here are a few skills that I learned/enhanced by working and studying abroad:
- Goal setting and achievement: I found a summer job (sold skill-set to a foreign audience), completed my MSc (learned to meet expectations of degree), earned awards for academic achievement. I persevered in a tough job market and learned how to meet new academic expectations.
- Careful reading of expectations and conducting research: eg. passport applications/ university applications/ work visa applications/ airport regulations. This taught me to learn what was expected of me and what to expect before starting something new.
- Adaptation to new settings/challenges: eg. using transit, buying groceries, writing an applicable CV, dealing with fees/taxes, budgeting. I learned to expect the unexpected and to meet situations as they arose.
- Responsibility for personal actions and school work. When you’re on your own it’s up to you to get things done and keep track of your personal belongings – excuses are a thing of my past.
- Better communication skills: Since I was writing assignments, I had to learn to use British grammer/spelling in my writing, and to understand accents when listening. This taught me to communicate effectively in a global environment.
- Time management: to study (weekdays) and explore (weekends) – a careful balance is needed when living alone abroad in order to take it all in.
- Social confidence: inside/outside class settings. I formed new relationships with individuals of different cultural backgrounds and learned different perspectives while stepping outside of my comfort zone at social events to do so.
- Adaption of schoolwork: Since I took a degree in water management, a lot of my coursework involved European Union policies. I made sure to do my best to understand how these policies would relate to my work in Canada. I arranged to complete my third semester project with a group located in Canada to ensure that I was gaining practical experience in my field. This taught me to correspond overseas by email while settling project details and to keep in contact while professors while working abroad.
- Developing a thick skin: this is a must for a traveller! At some point you will drop the ball; be it manners, grammar, customs, or just in general; and you’ll likely be called out on it (depending on your host culture). Learning to apologize, adapt, and move on is an important lesson that can’t be taught.
Was working and studying abroad worth it? In the end I’ve come away with plenty of skills, in addition to my degree and work experience, that should not be overlooked when interviewing for jobs. If you’ve had a similar experience, I encourage you to make a list of all the skills that you’ve acquired from your experience – you might be surprised what you find!
If you’re interested in working abroad this summer or studying abroad next September, I really recommend it – just remember to keep an open mind. You can only learn if you keep an open mind!