Speaking Spanish in Chile. Studying Renaissance art in Italy. Learning about international business in Singapore.
Whatever and wherever you choose to study abroad, you’re bound to have an unforgettable experience.
Not only will you grow on a personal level, but you might even discover your professional calling. Even though they didn’t expect it, studying abroad helped these three graduates discover their dream careers. See what they learned below.
1. My international experience helped me land jobs and start a business
Before she was the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global marketing and branding firm, Paige Arnof-Fenn was an economics student in Florence, Italy. It was her second time living in Europe, as she’d spent several months as a high schooler living with family in southeast France.
“These experiences were both incredibly special, and started my lifelong love affair with both France and Italy, and my desire to pursue a career in international business,” says Paige.
Once she started her job search, she impressed interviewers with her foreign language skills. “Speaking foreign languages is a way to differentiate yourself in interviews,” Paige says.
After getting hired, Paige continued to put her travel experiences to good use, especially during meetings with international clients. “My experience overseas made me more culturally sensitive and relevant,” she says. “I believe I got better assignments, faster promotions, and more interesting projects because of it.”
These days, Paige leads her own global firm, where she works with clients like Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times, and Colgate, along with nonprofits and startups.
She attributes much of her success to the benefits of studying abroad and the people she met overseas. “My global contacts have been instrumental in my career with local intelligence, product launch support, [and] referrals,” she says.
She remains grateful for the study abroad benefits she enjoyed as a student and how they have impacted her today as a global entrepreneur. “Travel enriches your life by exposing you to new people, sights, sounds, smells, and flavors,” says Paige. “To travel is to learn, to grow, to appreciate.”
2. I learned I’m a born storyteller
Shelby Rogers wasn’t sure what her future career would look like when she packed her bags for England during the spring semester of 2013. Once the semester started though, she discovered her affinity for writing and research.
“I noticed that I would typically get major research papers and projects done well in advance of their deadlines,” says Shelby. “Because I was tired of waiting for my friends to hurry up and finish their essays, I would help with planning, writing, and editing their research papers.”
When the faculty learned about her informal role as a writing tutor, they started recommending her help to other students. Shelby couldn’t formally get paid for her work, but she did “amass a small fortune in free beer and pub meals.”
Perhaps even more valuable than the pub food was her realization that she could turn her passion for writing into a career. “I realized that I was not only an effective academic editor; I also had a knack for storytelling in places where one wouldn’t expect,” she says.
Shelby was skilled with sifting through ideas and using effective language to make her points. “Strangely enough, those exact skills are what I use as a content marketer,” Shelby says. “I look for the story, help my company determine the story we’re trying to tell our readership (aka potential clients), and then I help them tell that story with effective language.”
Her study abroad experience helped her in job interviews, too. “When I applied for marketing and copywriting jobs, I made sure to talk about my international travel experience,” she says.
Besides learning how to craft good stories, Shelby also developed valuable “soft skills” from traveling. “It taught me to be independent and intrinsically motivated,” she says. “I know how to put myself out there and appropriately communicate with people of different backgrounds.”
At the same time, she acknowledges that she was in a privileged financial position to enjoy her experience abroad. She earned a number of scholarships, and her university also helped offset the costs. When she was traveling, she also kept costs down by tracking her budget and staying in hostels.
She encourages anyone looking to study abroad to apply for scholarships and speak with your school’s financial aid office about funding opportunities.
3. Learning another language helped me get my dream job
Studying abroad isn’t just for undergraduates. When she was studying for her master’s in corporate communications at Seneca College, Melissa Andrade sought out a four-month internship in Italy.
“In order to successfully complete my post-grad program, I had to take part in a mandatory four-month internship,” says Melissa. “Studying abroad was always something I wanted to do but never had the chance to while completing my undergrad. I figured this was the perfect semester and opportunity to do just that.”
Melissa landed a gig at a public relations firm in Milan, Italy where she helped out on press days and during Milan Fashion Week. Not only did the internship give her hands-on experience in the industry, but it also helped her add a valuable skill to her resume: fluency in Italian.
“It made me extremely marketable upon my return home,” says Melissa. “I now had a third language to add to my resume and was able to boast about my international work experience — something that was extremely valued at some of the larger companies I interviewed with while job hunting.”
For Melissa, the professional benefits of studying abroad were not short-lived. “Little did I know this experience would also help me land my next big dream job a few years later,” says Melissa.
“I’ve recently secured a new journalist position in Lisbon, Portugal as a celebrity and entertainment news writer,” she adds. “My new employer liked the fact that I was already well traveled across Europe from my previous time abroad, had knowledge of several languages, and understood how to assimilate myself within different cultures while getting a job done.”
Melissa is excited to return to Europe, and she credits her study abroad experience with giving her the qualifications she needed to land her dream job.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of studying abroad
From learning a new language to making friends across cultures, studying abroad gives you invaluable skills for your future career.
Many colleges offer study abroad programs, plus independent organizations host students in other countries, too. Often, your financial aid will transfer, and you can apply for study abroad scholarships.
You might even find a part-time job in another country to support yourself during a semester abroad. If you go this route, you’ll have one more experience to impress hiring managers with in your future job interviews.
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