How Studying Abroad Changed My Life…and My Resume

During my spring semester of 2016, I put my life at OU on pause and moved to Florence, Italy, for a semester abroad. While I was initially nervous about leaving my life at school, my friends and family and the campus that I had become so comfortable with over the past few years, I was anxious to move to Europe and learn as many new things as possible.

I can honestly say that my time spent studying abroad was the best of my life. I learned more than I ever thought was possible – about history, about the world around me and most importantly, about myself. While I was away, I had the pleasure of visiting nine different countries, meeting new people from all over the world and studying art and Italian Renaissance history intensively. This experience undoubtedly changed me into a more confident and independent person. But I wasn’t the only thing that changed.

Through internship interviews and networking events, my study abroad experience has come up every time. Often, it was a great conversation starter and ice breaker, but more times than not, I was told how this experience would set me apart from my peers. I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, until I returned home and realized how the small phrase “Semester Abroad” stood out on my resume. Here’s 5 reasons why you need to have “Study Abroad Experience” on YOUR resume:

1. It shows that you can be independent.

I traveled alone to a foreign country without any of my friends or family. I learned how to travel by plane, train and automobile, often alone. You learn to navigate a new area without any prior experience, which indicates to employers that you are able to work and survive in a new environment independently. This shows that you don’t need constant reassurance or reinforcement to get by in an unfamiliar place.

2. You work well in new situations.

Knowing that you studied abroad shows employers that you are able to adjust to entirely new situations quickly. I moved to a country where I barely knew the language, how to get around or navigate around the grocery store. Your ability to up and leave everything that was once comfortable to you shows employers that you can mold to new experiences, while also acting as a sponge to absorb every new thing that’s thrown your way.

3. You understand other perspectives. 

At our home universities, while we are often around people with varying personalities and interests, we tend to associate ourselves with people who have similar backgrounds to us. My study abroad experience put me among people from all over the world, who came from different geographical areas, religious backgrounds and educational levels. By interacting with this collection of people on a daily basis, you’ll learn the importance of taking other people’s backgrounds into consideration and truly listening to what others have to say, since their opinions widely differ from your own. I plan to carry my new understanding of different perspectives with me through both my college and professional careers.

4. You’re not afraid to leave your comfort zone.

Employers are more likely to hire you if they know that you’re not apprehensive about being thrown into a new situation. My study abroad experience was just that. So often, I found myself in a circumstance where I didn’t know where I was without my GPS, or found myself in a room full of new people without a phone screen to hide behind. This experience has prepared me for the unexpected and has boosted my confidence in situations where I am unsure of what the outcome may be.

5. You’d move to a foreign country in a heartbeat. 

With a study abroad experience on your resume, recruiters will hire you knowing that you would travel to a new country almost instantly. Because the world is becoming so much smaller with the induction of new media technologies and the internet, many companies are going global and need people who are willing to grow with them. Since you loved your travels so much the first time, your boss won’t be afraid to ask you to move to a new location, whether that be Cleveland, Paris or Shanghai. My time abroad convinced me that I need to live abroad, even if it’s only for a few months.

While my semester abroad changed my personal self, I am prepared to take what I learned to enhance my career. While I’m sure many think that tons of college students study abroad, it is truly an experience that will make you stand out among your counterparts. If you’re able to, step out of your comfort zone and spend a semester somewhere new – whether that be in the United States or otherwise. You’ll learn more about the world than you ever could in a college classroom, and that knowledge is invaluable.

@emcmahon1