How to Make Your Professional Goals of Study Abroad Work For You

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And now, presenting…translating lessons from abroad into transferable career skills. Or, more simply: how your study abroad semester can earn you the big bucks.

Your advisor, your resident director, different websites, your parents, they're all telling you that study abroad is good for your career. But what does that actually mean? What useful professional skills did you actually pick up while you were studying abroad? How do your study abroad learning objectives manifest in your job hunt?

If you're having difficulty communicating the nitty gritty growth and development versus a more lofty response, read on and take notes from our study abroad career development cheat sheet! These professional goals for studying abroad will have you cruising to the "hired" side of life in no time.

1. Identify your skills

kid on computer
Assess your skills. Pro tip: lattes help.

Since we rarely take inventory of the skills that we do have, it is no wonder that study abroad students return with an overwhelming sense of, "Well, I know I learned some stuff. I'm just not quite sure how to articulate it..."

Enter your trusty friends at GoAbroad. Below, we've listed over 50 different potential skills that you learned during your semester studying abroad. 

[First time internship advice that will get you hired]

Personal Capabilities

WHY THESE SKILLS MATTER: While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what often lead you to those doors. The development of your work ethic, your attitude, your self-awareness, and a whole host of other personal attributes, are crucial for career success. That's why your professional goals for study should absolutely include improved people skills.

  • I am more deeply committed to an idea, cause, or goal. I have a clear impression of what I wish to do with my life.
  • I understand more fully my own strengths and weaknesses, and have become more patient. I can accept failures in myself more easily, while also consciously working on my shortcomings.
  • I have the confidence to make clear personal choices for my life rather than acquiesce to what others expect from me.
  • I have increased my perseverance and self-discipline.
  • I feel more comfortable embracing roles and tasks that I have little previous experience in.
  • I understand that “different” doesn’t automatically infer “better” or “worse,” and that there is rarely one sole solution to a task.
  • I can see myself more objectively; I can see my own day-to-day problems in a broader, more realistic context.
  • I have a greater sense of responsibility for other people, and how my actions affect them.
  • I am more independent in my relations with family and friends.

Volunteers with a local woman in Africa

You’re also great at building relationships with new local friends abroad!

  • I am more confident and assertive when facing new situations. I am more tolerant of confusion, of equivocal situations, of going with the flow.
  • I am willing to be uncomfortable for the greater good.
  • I chose to learn a foreign language so I could speak to people in their own language while staying in their country.
  • I seek diversity in my friends, experiences, and skills.
  • I am more experienced at solving immediate problems and accomplishing quickly necessary tasks.
  • I can assess situations more clearly and take effective action more quickly.
  • I can set realistic long-term and short-term goals for myself.
  • I am more aware of the way I use and structure time.

[20 of best travel tips from 20+ years of travel]

Global Mindset

WHY THESE SKILLS MATTER: In today’s workplace, leaders must develop a global mindset. As business efforts cease to acknowledge borders, young professionals must be prepared to work with a variety of people across multiple contexts. However, global workers are only able to function in diverse environments if they have adequately developed cross-cultural minded knowledge, skills, and abilities.

  • I understand different countries’ political and cultural roles in world affairs.
  • I have a heartfelt understanding of common problems that challenge all human beings.
  • I am able to grasp how and why politics differ abroad.
  • I can evaluate advantages and disadvantages of my own culture and society more squarely.
  • I observe and interpret behaviors in multiple cultural contexts.
  • I have improved my ability to communicate with people in a second language.

Volunteer painting at an elementary school abroad

By exchanging languages, both parties understand one another better.

  • I can recognize cultural insensitivity in my actions and respond to my mistakes  respectfully and appropriately.
  • I am more aware of how understated my culture’s nuances are, which I never realized before.
  • I see the worth of human diversity.
  • I see my own cultural values more clearly and understand how and why they differ from others.
  • I have significant exposure to other cultures.
  • I have a better appreciation for and courtesy towards new ideas.
  • I am more flexible and able to adapt to unexpected changes in stride.
  • I have more empathy, and a keen sense of how events are interpreted, felt, and experienced by different people.
  • I have a better understanding of how my country, and the people of my country, are viewed by other countries.
  • I recognize a mutual interdependence across countries and people in the world.
  • I have a greater awareness of political, economic, and social events occurring within my country and outside of it.
  • I can articulate how my daily actions and decisions affect individuals in foreign countries.
  • I have cultural curiosity. I want to know more about foreign countries, cultures, and people, and to seek out new ideas and situations.
  • On campus, I have a greater compassion for the struggles of international students. Beyond campus, I have a greater sympathy of the plight of immigrants.
  • I am conscious of accepting others rather than “tolerating” them.
  • I recognize that I weave through “foreign cultures” in many areas of my life, and I will bring the same respect, curiosity, and willingness to all the new environments I encounter.

two people having a business meeting
Make sure your post study abroad resume is up to date, too!

Communication Skills

WHY THESE SKILLS MATTER: Communication is the heart of every working environment; everything you do in the workplace results from it. Therefore, solid communication skills are essential for career success.

  • I am an active listener.
  • I take responsibility and ownership for the things I say.
  • I consciously take time to reflect and interpret what is being said to me.
  • I am more balanced in my judgments and observations, and less likely to deem others’ actions or lifestyle choices as “good” or “bad.”

  • I can read nonverbal cues.
  • I can connect with with people from other cultures on an intellectual as well as emotional level.
  • I can speak objectively without evaluating.
  • I have emotional intelligence. I have empathy and a deep understanding of other people, as well as an ability to manage my own emotions.
  • I became more aware of how stereotypes can be harmful, misleading, and inefficacious.
  • I am more judicious and astute in my observations. I question vast generalizations.
  • I can communicate more clearly, directly, and at times, creatively.
  • I am adept at understanding situations, affairs, and concerns from conflicting viewpoints.
  • I am comfortable expressing my thoughts with others and I like when others share their thoughts with me.
  • I am more able to ask for and receive help from others.
  • I am more able to accept as valid others values and lifestyles, and can navigate  different cultural contexts.
  • I understand how communication can avoid unnecessary conflict, frustrations, and strife.

[Keep reading: How study abroad can help your career]

2. Add some meat to it

Oftentimes, students' go-to responses for the dreaded "How did study abroad relate to your career choices?" start and end with points like the ones listed above. While those are very valid skills and important lessons, let's take it a step further. Let's discuss ways to DEMONSTRATE how these skills were obtained, how you used them, and how you intend to use them in the workplace.

From the list above, choose a handful of skills (somewhere between five and six) that you feel are related to your career move and particularly connected to your personal travel experiences. Create a separate list of these skills, and flesh out each by connecting them with specific stories, instances, or memories where you recognized you were exercising that skill.

This step is key. If you claim that you are now inspired to "read more news sources," you should have a story to back it up (and probably a good grasp of current world events). Luckily, your study abroad semester afforded you a wealth of experience to draw from, so it shouldn't be too, too difficult to collect one to two examples of you demonstrating these skills in real life.

Ready to trade in your backpack for a briefcase?

By being organized, highlighting your most important skills, and having stories "at the ready," you will put yourself in a good position to impress future employers. Whether you are struttin' your stuff in an interview, on a resume, at a career fair, or during a more casual networking event, you'll be study abroad game strong.

3. Be a star candidate

If you really want to "wow" a company and blow the competition out of the water, your life choices should resonate deeply with your experience abroad. How did your overseas experience affect your life back home? Did you get involved in a wider variety of clubs, did you start committing a significant amount of time to a certain cause that you are passionate about, did you start studying a new language or take classes more deeply tied to world affairs?

Do not let your semester of study abroad abroad be an isolated experience. Connect it with your university communities and your life back home by seeking (and seizing) opportunities that keep the world at your fingertips.

If your semester studying abroad truly had the impact on you that you claim, and was not a glorified vacation, it should have an easily identifiable influence on your life post-study abroad.

girl throwing hands in the air
You're well on your way to a badass career!

4. Go get ‘em, tiger

Now you’re ready to take your study abroad experience and connect it directly with the decisions you want to take in your future. Keep building on the skills that you identified within yourself, and zero-in on a couple that you want to be a master of. With hard work, dedication, and kindness, you’ll be more than ready to rock an internship, job interview, scholarship application, or whatever exciting opportunity life throws your way!

3 steps to include study abroad on your resume

P.S. Haven't studied abroad yet? If you are in the planning stages, and are on the hunt to find an answer or ideas for your goals for studying abroad essay, reverse engineer this article to identify what you want to work on instead of reflect on what you did work on. Easy peasy! Your goals of studying abroad are looking bright!

Topic:  Resume Tips