Study Abroad & Career Exploration: The Perfect Pair

So you’ve decided to study abroad? Congratulations!  

Let’s look at your predeparture check list:

  1. Pack toothbrush, toothpaste and underwear
  2. Remember to complete all necessary paperwork for the Study Abroad Office
  3. Find passport!
  4. sb78Meet with a career counselor

Internships and community service abroad

There is so much to be gained on the career front through study abroad.  A recent post on the Abroad101 blog  highlights the importance of looking for study abroad programs that offer opportunities for  internships and community service:

“Many successful programs are…providing global citizenship through interactive cultural field work along with pre-professional skills through foreign internship placements. Students should consider these aspects of a program when researching options, as the ability to integrate with locals in their foreign destination as well as exposure to the local economy and job market provide invaluable insights and growth. ”

Study abroad as a transformative experience

 If “career” hasn’t crossed your mind by the time you decide to study abroad, this is a good time to start. The study abroad experience is about “transformation”. A career counselor can aid in guiding you through the career portion of that transformation by crafting a list of tasks to accomplish while you’re abroad.  Schedule an appointment with a counselor and come prepared with a list of questions and issues. If you’ve never met with a career counselor, then your questions are easy: 

  1. I’m studying abroad next semester, and I thought I’d come in to see how I can make the most of my time away. What should I be thinking about and doing?
  2. Will I need a resume while I’m abroad? Should I add my study abroad to the resume now, even though I haven’t started yet?
  3. Can you help me find an internship while I’m abroad?
  4. What’s the best way to stay in contact with Career Services (email, phone, Skype)?
  5. Can I apply for jobs and internships while I’m away? How do interviews work?

sb309Study abroad and career development

Study abroad can serve as an intentional introduction to career development.   Martin Tillman, Associate Director of Career Services at John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and contributor to Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development, wrote:

“We live in a challenging era with increased pressures on our workforce due to globalization and the demands of complex political, social and economic forces. At the same time students have an unprecedented range of opportunities availble to broaden their world view and deepen their understanding of global issues-whether through formal study abroad programs, non-credit experiential learning programs, volunteer projects or work abroad. However, as several authors point out, students too frequently accumulate international experiences in an ad hoc fashion, absent any clear relationship to their curricular choices and unrelated to their career goals. In addition, even with the best of intentions, students have difficulty articulating- in resumes and job interviews- how their travel, study or work abroad experience informs their overall career decision-making.”

Tillman recognizes that upon returning from study abroad, students and career counselors should reflect on the student’s experience and make sense of how it fits into the bigger picture of what comes next for the student.  This means discussing what the student learned, how the student was challenged, and how values and interests changed or developed.

Study abroad influences work abroad after graduation

Many students who study abroad as undergraduates express an interest in working abroad after graduation. Whether it is returning to the same region or exploring a new country, the study abroad experience empowers them to be able to look for an international job or volunteer opportunity.  A study abroad experience can transform a student’s personal brand from domestic to global in just a few months.


Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education. 

Related posts:

  1. Study Abroad
  2. Help Employers See the Value of Your Study Abroad Experience
  3. A Career Counselor’s Spring Break Abroad

3 Responses to “Study Abroad & Career Exploration: The Perfect Pair”

  1. avatar Greg de Lima says:

    As someone who’s studying abroad I really agree with what you say here. Although sometimes I find that being abroad has lead to finding jobs just a little bit tougher.
    As I can’t attend my university’s career fairs and many other events that are beneficial to the job hunt, it makes it just that much more difficult.
    I have also written about this on my blog, if you feel like taking a look.

  2. avatar Nicole M. Anderson says:

    Hi Greg,
    This is a belated thank you for responding to my post in December about career search and study abroad. I know that you will be in Spain until May. Does your university career center offer telephone, Skype, or email career counseling appointments? That could be helpful while abroad. Also, although you cannot attend career fairs, you probably still have access to the job/internship information as well as employer contact information, so you can still apply. I realize it’s not as nice as meeting employers in person, but there’s always an opportunity to reach out via email to an employer and mention that you are interested in the internship they were advertising at the fair, but you are in Spain (really cool, they may think), and you could not be there in person. You’ve got to leverage this part of your brand, which is that you are taking advantage of a year studying abroad.
    Thanks again for noticing my post and for respondiing. Nicole

  3. when going abroad,it’s not just the investment of money one needs to focus on but also an investment of time and effort. A career counselor along with a good amount of research on one’s behalf is a very rewarding experience and helps in making the right choice.

    To know more about making the right career choice,visit us at

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