Taking Your Global Experiences Beyond Amherst

The study away experience is often viewed as something that happens for a determined period of time and ends promptly after returning to Amherst. In actuality, it rarely ends therethe gains from global experiences can extend far beyond your time at Amherst and may even impact choices about academic majors, grad school, and future career options. This page aims to provide you with some insights into utilizing your study away experiences in your job search, as well as finding additional international opportunities after you leave Amherst.

Career Benefits of Study Away

Study away is an investment in yourself and your future.

Currently, Amherst sends approximately 48% of the junior class off campus for a semester or year. With that statistic, one might assume that study away is the norm and that it doesn’t necessarily distinguish you from other undergraduate students or prospective job candidates. However, according to the 2018 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, just under 11% of all U.S. undergraduates studied away during the 2016-17 academic year.

So, why does this matter? We believe there is untapped potential to utilize your global experiences to learn transferable skills and gain an edge in the job market, and we’re not alone in this belief.

The Institute of International Education (IIE), a leading organization in research and policy analysis in the field of international student mobility, has recently published two studies—Gaining an Employment Edge: The Impact of Study Abroad (2017) and Study Abroad Matters: Linking Higher Education to the Contemporary Workplace Through International Experience (2018)—that link global experiences to career competencies and student preparation for entering an increasingly global workforce upon graduation. Additionally, the Future Work Skills 2020 report published by the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a non-profit strategic research group, names a 'globally connected world' as one of six drivers of change that are "likely to reshape the future landscape" and 'cross-cultural competency' as one of ten skills that will be "critical for success in the workforce".

Additional reading:

U.S. Department of State: The Value of Study Abroad

#StudyAbroadBecause: It's an Investment in Your Future

Global Mindset Index Study: How Cross-Cultural Training Powers Performance

Career Competencies and the Global Experience

Study away offers many benefits for your future career preparationbeyond the obvious preparation of specific classes you might take, internships where you may work, or the language skills that you develop during your time away. Career readiness also involves skills such as communication, confidence, critical thinking, adaptability, problem-solving, and intercultural competence, which can be developed by studying away.  For example, depending on the language of your host country, even in the simplest of interactions, you will be learning how to communicate in new ways daily. Daily cross-cultural communication will be essential to your success abroad, and it will teach you how to interact with people from all different backgrounds. Not to mention, gaining fluency in another foreign language will improve your employability.

Career Competencies and Readiness

According to surveys conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the skills that will be needed by college graduates in the future include basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics); knowing how to learn; listening and oral communication; problem solving; creative thinking; interpersonal skills; teamwork; negotiation skills; organizational effectiveness and leadership; personal management; and motivation and goal setting.

The value of studying away for your future career goes well beyond the classes you take. Studies have shown that the skills a student develops are more important than the choice of major for their future careers. Studying away can be a time of personal and professional challenges and new experiences – you may not immediately notice that you’ve honed and developed your communication or problem solving skills, just through daily living in a new culture.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers survey employers every year about the characteristics they want to see on college graduates’ resumes. You can use the chart below to think about how your study away experience has helped you develop the soft skills that employers are looking for. Use it to help you reframe all your study away experiences – you can turn a situation like losing your passport and being stranded in a small countryside town where no one speaks English, into a demonstration of your problem solving skills, for example. However, make sure you craft these stories ahead of time and build them to reinforce professional skill sets. Here are a few examples:

  • Speak about a personal encounter that gave you insight into the local culture

  • Describe your professional skills through a story about a cross-cultural encounter that went wrong

  • Describe your role when working with student/work teams abroad – explain the difference between that and your experiences in the U.S. and what you learned from the differences

  • Describe how your experience living in an unfamiliar culture has given you the skills to thrive in a new work environment

You only need three or four of these pre-scripted career stories when job searching to demonstrate your professional skills, maturity, insightfulness, sound judgment, cross-cultural knowledge, etc. Just remember to make sure these stories are crafted for a professional audience and are not just your most wild or shocking encounters – these are intended specifically for the job search! 

Making the Most of Your Experience Away

To make the most of your experience away from Amherst, you will want to reflect on what you hope to gain from the experience before you choose a program.

Before you go:

  • Establish intentional goals prior to going – academic, professional and personal
  • Consider if/how program will enhance your chosen career or major: Choose a program considering your academic, service learning & internship interests
  • Check the Alumni Directory to connect with Amherst alums in your host city before arrival

During your time away:

  • Take time to reflect – journal or blog about your experiences. Studying abroad can be such a jam-packed time, you won’t remember all the details of the challenges, small victories, and experiences you with go through – which can all be helpful in describing the skills you developed
  • Research careers. Talk to professionals in your chosen field that are working abroad, whether they are “locals” or “foreigners” in that position
  • Shadow a professional. Get a chance to see what a “typical day” in an international office is like
  • Develop a global mindset. Global workers are only able to function in diverse environments if they have adequately developed cross-cultural minded knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Improve your communication skills. Solid communication skills are essential for career success. Make a goal of becoming more empathetic, improving your listening skills, handling conflicts

When you return:

  • Reflect on skills developed – this goes beyond classes and/or internships: think about how day-to-day challenges may have helped you develop soft skills such as problem solving, comfort with ambiguity, and communication
    • Professional Experience:  Employers want to know that you successfully accomplished tasks in a new environment. Did you lead a student team? Did you complete projects within a multicultural student environment? Did you meet professionals in your field while abroad? Did you organize a social event? Did you work: part-time, with a professor, or as a language coach? Did you volunteer in your field? Did you overcome a bureaucratic hurdle by making use of professional skills? Audit your time abroad for professional experiences and be prepared to describe them in your resume and when meeting employers. 
    • Cross-Cultural Skills: While abroad, you developed a unique set of cross-cultural skills that are portable. You are familiar with culture shock and can professionally describe it. You understand the cycle of stress and exhilaration of being in a new environment. You are more adaptable, open minded, and observant. You can spot cultural differences and change your behavior to accommodate local norms. You have a better understanding of yourself and use this self-knowledge when making decisions in a culture other than your own. You are curious, brave, and have a sense of adventure. 
    • Language Skills: You know that language skills are important for international and domestic employers. Even obscure language or basic language skills indicate a propensity for language learning and learning in general. When communicating with employers, indicate the proficiency level of reading, writing, and speaking skills you acquired. Always describe what you can do as opposed to what you can't. 
    • General Work Skills: When speaking to employers, recognize the value of the general skills you developed while abroad. You are adept at managing change; you are independent and have self-discipline while being sensitive to the needs of others. There are dozens of work characteristics developed abroad: resourcefulness, versatility, persistence, observant and calm demeanor, diligence, multifaceted skills in communications, broad and strategic thinking, ability to deal with ambiguities, courage, ability to take on challenging work, open-mindedness, flexibility, resourcefulness, tact, listening and observing skills, ability to deal with stress, sense of humor, and awareness of interpersonal politics. All of these skills are valuable to you when contacting domestic as well as international employers.
  • Connect with the Loeb Center to learn more about how to incorporate your study away experiences into your resume or cover letter, and how to talk about your newly acquired skills and experience in an interview
  • Continue to build your network – including international alums, other study abroad returnees, alums/students from your specific study abroad program
  • Add your study away experience to your resume, Handshake, and LinkedIn profile
  • Continue developing your foreign language skills: take a class, find native speakers or join a language club to maintain your language proficiency

Sample Resumes with International Experience

Now that you have returned from your experience abroad and reflected on your time away and the skills you developed, here are examples of how to incorporate your international experience into a resume format. For more information on resume writing in general, see the Loeb Center online guides.


 

2017 International Photo Contest- Pathway with Laterns in Japan

International Careers & Internships

The Loeb Center offers resources and advising to help you consider internships, networking, jobs, alumni connections, or reflection on how to align your skills and interests with a meaningful career.

2017 International Photo Contest- Kea Bird on Mount Brewster in New Zealand

International Fellowships

The Office of Fellowships advises students and alumni on a number of competitive awards that can be applied to a variety of academic and other goals.

Additional Global Opportunities

*This list is meant to be used as a resource. Amherst does not endorse these organizations and encourages students to do their own research before pursuing further. In addition, this is not a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point in your search for educational and professional opportunities around the world.

Careers

In an increasingly global world, there are numerous career opportunities which allow for significant travel and/or work abroad. Some of the obvious choices fall within international education or international relations, but there are many others. Schedule a meeting with an advisor in the Loeb Center to learn more about various career options that may fulfill your desire to travel and work abroad short- or long-term.

Graduate School & Research

Approximately 85% of Amherst graduates go on to pursue post-graduate studies within five years of graduating from Amherst. Why not consider furthering your education from abroad? It isn't always the first option to come to mind, but with some planning and research, it is possible to pursue a graduate or doctorate degree at a foreign institution.

Short-term Work

Teaching

Volunteering

Worldwide Work

Working Holiday Visas

Working Holiday Visas are reciprocal agreements between certain countries which allow young adults to reside and work (and sometimes study) in the country issuing the visa for a set period of time, usually one year. The American's Guide to Working Holiday Visas provides an overview of each of the following visa programs for US citizens.

Non-US citizens may have different Working Holiday Visa options than those listed above. While the articles mentioned in this section may be a helpful starting point, please do additional research as visa and immigration requirements change regularly.