Purposefully deciding to study abroad

By Martin Tillman
Published February 4, 2013


Would you consider yourself “vocationally astute?” I’ve never seen that turn of phrase in print but found it in a recent story by the British online source, The PIE News (Nov. 22, 2012). The author refers to being astute in this particular way to be a “deciding factor in today’s market.” The piece cites a recent poll by the British Council which found a third of the UK population believed that they would have had a better job if they had studied abroad.

As I’ve written in my AIFS Student Guide to Study Abroad and Career Development (2011), the degree to which students can become more savvy – or astute, if you will – about the linkage between their education abroad experience and its tie to their career direction or preferences, has everything to do with how purposeful they are in deciding to go abroad.

Deciding in a purposeful way means that a student:

  • carefully considers how their time abroad would strengthen new workforce skills through language study, for example; build cross-cultural sensitivity (i.e.: a homestay or internship)
  • develops new country/regional expertise on global issues
  • can articulate how their reasons for going abroad has succeeded – upon return to campus – in building these and/or other important skill sets which an employer will value

One of the best ways to help ensure this happens is to plan carefully and review the intention to go abroad with both a career and study abroad advisor on campus. When to go? For how long? To what country/region? To be in the classroom, a service-learning program in the community or an internship? Which one would be the best fit in building a link with a major or a job in a particular sector or field? These are all core questions which should be thoroughly considered in dialogue with campus advisors.

Looking for more information? Check out our study abroad student guide to learn more.

Martin Tillman is president of Global Career Compass. Global Career Compass navigates career pathways for students and international education professionals.

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