How to link your study abroad experience to what graduate employers are looking for

So you’ve completed your year abroad – it’s been a great experience, you’ve had a lot of fun and you’ve gained a lot from your time away. Now you’ve returned and are starting to think about that dreaded ‘J’ word… jobs.

Here in the Business School, we recognise that the transition from being a student to employee is not always a straightforward one. Nor is it easy to stand out from the other hundreds of applicants. We aim to help you as much as we can with employability, and showing off your skills effectively plays a crucial part in your success in an interview situation. We’ve put together some advice to help you articulate your experience abroad to convince employers that they should hire you.

So why should employers care about your experience abroad?  Here are some skills that you will have developed during your time abroad that employers will undoubtedly value:

  • Your interactions with different cultures / cultural awareness
  • Your adaptability to new situations when immersed in a foreign culture, outside of your comfort zone
  • Your initiative in solving problems by applying familiar concepts to unfamiliar situations
  • The organization and detail you put into planning trips
  • Personal independence and self-reliance
  • Managing finances in another currency
  • Communication across language barriers & improved foreign language skills

Then relate this to business – you now have the ability to:

  • Look at a project or situation from different perspectives
  • Maintain self-confidence while listening and learning from people whose value systems may be different
  • Imagine, forecast, analyze or address business situations from a different cultural frame of reference
  • Develop an understanding of global issues in your industry of interest

Top tips from the University of Exeter Business School Employability Team:

  • Be specific! Use examples of how you developed each skill, not just a general description of your year.
  • Give instances of difficult or unusual situations you came across, and explain how you dealt with them using your personal skills.
  • Importantly, consider the company and the role you are applying for. Focus on the experiences that relate most appropriately. For example, if the position requires foreign language skills, tell them if you studied in another language or if you took optional language classes outside of your credits.
  • Prove to the employer that you chose to study abroad to develop your skill set and make the most of a learning opportunity, not just to have fun. Portraying your experience in a professional light will impress them.
  • Think about the ways in which you have changed, to demonstrate how important the experience was for you.
  • Answer questions in a way that highlights how the skills obtained overseas will “add value” to the employer and will enhance your job performance.
  • The interviewer may ask an open-ended question, such as “I see you spent a year abroad – tell me about that” – be prepared to structure your answer logically and bring in as many skills as possible.
  • Practice answering sample questions beforehand – such as: “We are proud to have a very diverse team here in the office. What experience do you have working with people from backgrounds different than your own, and how do you think those experiences relate to the workplace?”
  • Finally… you can’t always prepare for every question you’ll be asked in an interview – the employer expects this. But take your time and remember, you learnt to adapt to unexpected situations abroad, so this is just the same!

If you would like any more advice on using study abroad to enhance your job applications, contact the International Development Team on .


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