I do my best to live my life with no regrets. However, when I look back on my college experience the one thing I regret is not studying abroad. I see many college resumes and I must admit when I meet a student that has studied abroad there is a little pang of jealousy.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for these students and I have been very fortunate throughout my life having traveled to many places and experienced many cultures. I’m actually writing this on a flight to Puerto Rico right now! But there are many benefits to studying abroad during your college career that I wish I hadn’t missed out on. These life and career benefits include personal growth, a global understanding, and international networking, not to mention a valuable experience that will boost your resume.
When I ask students what their biggest take away is from their study abroad experience, almost all of them give me an answer that references personal growth.
“I learned a lot about myself”, or “I now know what I’m capable of and how strong I really am,” or “I have richer understanding of different cultures, more of a global view”, etc.
I think we can all agree that when you go away to college you tend to grow, mature and become more confident over those four years.
A study abroad experience has the same effect, maybe even more so. Think about it, you have to learn to navigate through a country where you’ve most likely never been, potentially learn a new language and all while throwing yourself into a totally different culture. If that’s not a life experience that will shape the person you are–I don’t know what is.
Almost all major companies today are global. These companies expect their associates to have a global understanding in order to best serve their customers. Taking the initiative and time to travel abroad before you get your first “real job” out of college provides you with the hands on knowledge and know-how that can’t be learned from a text book.
Most students who travel abroad don’t just go to the country where they are studying but also travel to neighboring countries in their free time as well. Unlike the U.S., there are many places around the world where you can easily travel from country to country. For example, you can experience the beauty of Europe via the Euro rail. Who knows, maybe in your future career your boss will ask you to meet with the international client instead of your coworker because you have been to the country before and know their customs!
As we all know, and have discussed in previous blogs, networking is extremely important as a college student and beyond. It’s important to network with peers, faculty, employers, etc. because those connections can be extremely helpful throughout your life and career. But what you may have never thought about is expanding your network outside of the U.S. Can you imagine having a network of people not only at home but in another country or multiple countries? Taking advantage of a study abroad opportunity will allow you to expand your network beyond your peers to include students, faculty, industry professionals and new friends in the country you choose to study or even in countries where you travel during your study abroad experience. These contacts can be valuable for career advice and opportunities, potential clientele and/or travel guides and companions.
As previously mentioned, when I see study abroad experience on a student resume I do get a little jealous, but more importantly I am always impressed. Study abroad experience can definitely amp up your resume. Listing all the countries you have traveled to and the languages you speak can help your resume stand out amongst your peers. Even more so if you have gained worked experience in addition to your study abroad experience.
As a Recruiter it says to me, “This student has a global view, and can be thrown into the unknown and think on their feet.” This translates into the working world as someone who can handle tough situations and come up with solutions. It is also a great conversation starter and allows you to share your stories and take-aways from your experience during an interview which can ease your nerves and potentially provide a common ground.
Still not convinced?
If you are still not convinced I am guessing you are hesitant to travel abroad due to financial reasons or fear of being homesick. Don’t let either of these factors stop you! Most universities offer financial aid to college students interested in studying abroad. Be sure to research the study abroad opportunities available on your university website or by visiting with a career counselor on campus before you decide to rule out such a great opportunity.
If just the thought of going to another country makes you homesick, remember we are in the age of amazing technology where you can not only talk to your friends and family easily, but even chat with them face to face for free! Web cam programs like Skype can keep you connected during your time away not to mention your cell phone, if you a purchase an international plan or phone cards, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and of course don’t forget about good ‘ole postcards.
The bottom line is live life with no regrets. If studying abroad could be one of those regrets for you, take it from me, pack your bags and get going!
Heidi is one of 3 College Recruiting Managers for Hyatt. She is responsible for recruiting top talent at hospitality universities across the country, primarily for Hyatt’s Corporate Management Training program and Corporate Internship program. Heidi visits up to 14 campuses twice a year to promote the Hyatt brand and college programs. Most recently Heidi has become involved with External Functional Recruitment for Culinary Management positions in North America. She earned her BS Degree in Interpersonal Communication with a minor in Business from Ohio University in 2001.