3 Steps to Adding Study Abroad to Your Resume

by Julia Dunn

Suppose you spent your spring break studying abroad, trekking through mountains in Paraguay and traversing small villages in Venezuelan valleys. You got to know families who’ve lived in the area their entire lives, and your adventure maybe even included volunteering at small elementary schools. You return home brimming with international insights, newfound points of view, and a clarity that you would have never gained had you chosen not to go abroad. After creating such vibrant and meaningful memories across the world, you start to wonder how you can use this experience to advance your success even further.

A woman with her tablet

After your study abroad trip is complete, what do you do with everything you’ve learned? How do you use it to land even more opportunities such as jobs, internships, and volunteering positions?

The most direct way is to capture your study abroad on your resume, which can be accomplished easily if you package your experiences succinctly. What you gained while navigating a foreign country, chockful of different customs and languages, is more than the occasional headache. You gained skills, skills that are extremely applicable to many professional positions that may interest you in the future. A well-crafted resume with this information will give you a significant edge when it comes to applying for a dream internship or entry-level career (whether at home or abroad).

Why do employers care if you studied abroad?

More and more employers value students’ study abroad experiences, which is great because studying abroad leads to many personal and professional rewards. For one, studying abroad tests a student’s real-world application of cultural knowledge and language use (it doesn’t take a bilingual to know this translates into great resume content!). Furthermore, the ability to respond to vastly different situations that may arise during a study abroad trip can look impressive to anyone hiring you in the future.

Many employers have an idea of what skills are acquired when a student studies abroad, but it’s your job to really sell them! Studying abroad can help your career, but not simply by default. There are specific ways to improve your hiring prospects and leverage your international experiences. Don’t believe us? Read on!

Getting Hired: Easy as 1-2-3

Follow these three simple steps to incorporate study abroad onto your resume and reap the benefits of your travels:

1. Sit down and think. Go through your photos, journals, recordings, blogs, and any other documents you created while on your trip.

Upon returning from your trip, the first step to adding study abroad details to your resume is sifting through your materials and conducting some extensive self-reflection on the people you met, the places you saw, and the experiences that stuck out to you. Did a certain situation catch you off guard? If so, why, when, and how? Did you surprise yourself by how much you could successfully communicate with others in the language you’ve only been learning for a year? Remember that time you mastered the public transportation system in Montenegro after stressing out for hours about getting lost? 

Suitcase

Analyze your experiences to identify your skills (and maybe even some potential career paths). Reflect on your newfound capabilities, communication skills, and global mindset. Having a clear interpretation of your experience will prove beneficial when it is time to craft a resume including study abroad details.

2. Generate a list of key skills you relied upon when you were abroad.

Now that you’ve gathered all the records of your trip, condense your experience into a few key words or phrases that encompass the skills you used abroad. Some of these may include phrases such as “ problem solving,” “money management,” “language skills,” or even “cross-cultural communication,” if you successfully overcame a language barrier.

If you did other projects while abroad, such as teaching or volunteering, you may be able to use powerful verbs like “developed,” “facilitated,” “volunteered,” “created,” “cultivated,” “organized” and “planned” in your resume bullet points, followed by a short description of what you did. Considering you have quite a limited amount of space on a resume, using concise and descriptive diction really matters.

Study abroad experiences demand a lot from students: flexibility, on-the-spot decision making, extensive planning, problem solving, troubleshooting unforeseen mishaps, foreign language use (usually), cultural education, and adapting to college life at a university that may operate radically differently from your home school. Any and all of these skills are killer details to highlight on a professional resume. (But don’t forget to demonstrate rather than tell your skills).

However, don’t give away your entire study abroad experience just on your resume — write your bullet points keeping in mind that any interviews resulting from your resume submission may involve questions about your experience, and you’ll want to offer new and exciting information. Be prepared to elaborate on experiences and expand on smaller details.

3. Organize powerful bullet points of information into appropriate sections of your resume.

Anyone who looks at your resume internalizes the information from the top of the page to the bottom, so when crafting your resume, imagine being on the other side looking at an applicant’s resume yourself. What stands out? What information seems buried beneath less pertinent information? Structure your document strategically to highlight the most impressive details about your training or experience.

For instance, if you’re applying to work at a language school in Costa Rica and you studied Spanish abroad in Costa Rica, put that hyper-related-sure-to-wow-them experience at the TOP of your resume. Don’t bury it two-thirds down the page after you listed your recent job experience at the Tastee Freez. Structure your resume in relation to the desired skills set of the new hire.

Pen and paper

If none of your current experience directly ties with what they’re looking for, you should still make sure to consider the format and order in which you list experiences on the resume. In relation to other content, how highly do you regard your study abroad experience? Experiment with ordering your information.

There is an art to articulating your study abroad experience into resume-style bullet points that add depth to your resume rather than detract from it. Study abroad experiences may fit into categories titled “Professional Experience” or “Education” depending on which category is most relevant to the bullet points you’ve created.

If you were abroad for an extended period of time (such as a whole year studying at a university in Australia), everything related to your academic program, academic affairs, or accomplished milestones is appropriate under an “Education” heading. If relevant, note important courses taken abroad, internships completed, and awards earned. Mentioning foreign study on resumes communicates to potential employees that you are a motivated student who is unafraid of a challenge and is willing to take risks for the purpose of self-development.

BONUS: Study Abroad on Resume Samples

Here are real-life examples of study abroad on the resumes of a few all-star professionals:

SAMPLE 1

SAMPLE 2





SAMPLE 3


SAMPLE 4

To Conclude…

Your post-study abroad career options are plentiful. Students who go abroad may not realize how many skills they acquire simply from navigating a foreign country. You may consider adding an entire section to your resume dedicated to study abroad, provided the experience was significant to your professional development.

Taking the initiative to study abroad demonstrates a unique commitment to yourself and your future that most certainly belongs on a resume. No employer can turn away a resume peppered with details from learning Italian in Venice or rocking a part-time internship in Sweden. Infuse your resume with some international pizzazz and your job applications will practically glow in comparison to someone else’s ordinary resume.

This fantastic article was written by our partner Uloop