How to properly articulate your study abroad experience

By Rachael Kroot, Edited by Valeri Boyle
Published January 12, 2012


When I first returned from my semester in London, my friend Jamie asked me, “So… how have you changed?”  It was a great question.  Everybody who studies abroad inevitably comes back with new experiences and skills.  But sometimes the change can be hard to pinpoint.  Sure, you might feel more worldly and independent, but how do you put that on paper?  More importantly, how do you convey that to your future employer? 

Below are some resume examples to get you thinking in the right direction when it comes to showing potential employers what you’ve learned while studying abroad.

Personally, since my resume was already pretty full, I kept the study abroad information very simple.  Under the “Education” section I added a bullet point to highlight my semester abroad.

EDUCATION


University of Maryland                                                                                                              Graduated May 2010

B.S. in Geography

  • GPA 3.90 - cum laude
  • Awarded the Presidential Scholarship
  • Semester Academic Honors for all semesters
  • Golden Key International Honour Society member
  • College Park Scholars Arts Citation
  • Semester Study Abroad in London

Then, in the “Skills” section at the bottom of my resume, I chose to highlight all of the countries to where I’ve traveled.

SKILLS


  • Intermediate knowledge of Spanish
  • Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Windows, Macintosh, Outlook, Lotus Notes, Gmail, Internet, etc.
  • Photo Editing and Web Design (FinalCut Pro, Photoshop, etc)
  • International Travel Experience: Canada, Bahamas, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Israel, Australia and New Zealand

Be careful when making a list like this.  It was never my intention to come across as bragging; the point for me was simply to capture the employer’s interest (while still leaving room for all of my relevant work experience elsewhere on the page).  For instance, when applying to a job at a travel agency, I thought it would be beneficial for them to see I had extensive travel experience outside of work. The same goes for jobs where you might encounter a variety of people when, let’s say, working in customer service. In many scenarios, it is more practical to explain the skills gained abroad, such as:

  • Adaptability and flexibility in new situations
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Comfortable working with people from different cultures

If you have more room on your resume than I did, however, it can be extremely helpful to expand upon your experiences abroad even further.  You might add a section like follows:

INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE


Semester Abroad in London                                                                                                                  Spring 2009

  • Adapted to an unfamiliar environment and embraced cultural differences
  • Used communication and organization skills to navigate through new cities
  • Managed finances in varying currencies

International Student House Resident Assistant                                                                              Spring 2009 

  • Built interpersonal relationships with students from all over the world
  • Planned and supervised community events that appealed to students of all cultures

Independent Research Project                                                                                                               Fall 2009

  • Used primary and secondary research methods to study London from the student’s perspective
  • Combined research into a comprehensive report and presented findings to the department in a symposium

If you interned abroad, that would also be a great thing to add.  An internship can go either in the “International Experience” section, or in a “Work Experience” section.  Just make sure to highlight any major projects you worked on or any cultural experiences you would not have gained elsewhere.  Study abroad is a unique experience that can set you apart from other job applicants. Use this to your advantage and you are sure to be called in for an interview in no time!

Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and studied abroad in London during the Spring of 2009.