Why such a big push for study abroad, you might ask? Well, quite frankly, because it can often end up changing just about everything for those who participate (Chapman, 2011). First, study abroad participation often leads to interest in new vocational options as well as the unanticipated desire to pursue graduate study or careers abroad. However, as only a few participants typically study abroad with career goals in mind, students often find themselves unprepared for the many career development opportunities available to them abroad and often only recognize missed opportunities retrospectively. Second, study abroad participation often supports significant multidimensional growth, including (among other outcomes):
- gains in identity development and competence
- a greater sense of autonomy
- honed problem-solving ability
- strengthened interpersonal communication skills, and
- an increased capacity for mature interpersonal relationships that transcend cultural boundaries.
These are all qualities that could be highly marketable to future employers, and the wealth of meaningful experiences could prove valuable during interviews. Sadly, students often struggle to put words to their experiences and fail to “give meaning to their experiences in a way that employers could identify” (Collegiate Employment Research Institute, CERI, 2008, p.4).
A need therefore exists for career services professionals to assist study abroad participants as they prepare for the foreign study experience, while they explore themselves and careers abroad, and upon their return home. Strategies to best meet the unique career development needs of these students follow.
Pre-Departure Assistance and Career Center Programming
- Partner with the Study Abroad Office to offer pre-departure workshops during orientation aimed at making students aware of the career opportunities available to them while abroad.
- Offer workshops about international business culture. Small group formats will enable the presentation to be specific to the host culture of those in attendance.
- Help students to craft resumes or CVs and design business cards.
- Assist students with the development of a Study Abroad Career Plan – learning outcomes specific to their career goals. This could include a checklist of activities, including: attending a professional networking event, shadowing a professional in their field of study, pursuing a part-time unpaid internship or engaging in service learning related to their interest area, visiting potential graduate schools, and making connections with potential research advisors.
Career Assistance While Abroad
- As students could face career crises while in unknown surroundings, make continued career counseling available through e-mail, phone, or video-conferencing.
- Where possible, help hold students accountable to their study abroad career plans while they are abroad.
Career Services Upon Return from the Study Abroad Experience
- Offer debriefing programs to help students better articulate the value of their experiences specifically related to personal and career development. CERI has developed a flagship program for this purpose called “Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience,” which relays the potential relevance of newly acquired skills and competencies to future employers and offers an opportunity to reflect on past experiences (Gardner, Steglitz, & Gross, 2009).
- Help students to formulate resumes and cover letters that will showcase their study abroad participation and effectively highlight newly developed skills and competencies.
- Offer students the opportunity to practice articulating the meaningfulness of their study abroad experience through mock interviewing.
Study abroad participants benefit greatly from targeted career development programming because most are not focused on career outcomes as they prepare for the adventure ahead. Fortunately, career services professionals are in the unique position to purposefully insert themselves into the pre-departure planning, abroad experiences, and readjustment of participants to help ensure that meaningful career development takes place.
BaileyShea, C. (2009). Factors that affect American college students’ participation in study abroad. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.) University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.
Chapman, V. V. (2011). “Beyond the bubble:” Study abroad and the psychosocial and career development of undergraduates (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database (AAT 3461273).
Collegiate Employment Research Institute (2008). Unpacking your study abroad experience: Critical reflection for workplace competencies. Research Brief 1(1). Retrieved April 9, 2011 from http://ceri.msu.edu/publications/pdf/brief1-2008final.pdf.
Fischer, K. (2008, June 20). All abroad! Overseas study required. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(41), A1.
Gardner, P., Steglitz, I., & Gross, L. (2009). Translating study abroad experiences for workplace competencies. AAC&U Peer Review, 11(4), 19-22.
Institute for International Education (2011). Open Doors 2011 Fast Facts. Retrieved April 29, 2012 from http://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors.
This article will be the subject of a presentation at the National Career Development Association Global Career Development Conference in Atlanta tomorrow. Presentation #508 will be held at 3:20 – 4:30pm on Friday, June 22, in a location listed in the NCDA 2012 Conference Program Book.
Note: This article “MAXIMIZING THE CAREER DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENTS WHO STUDY ABROAD,” by Vera V. Chapman, originally appeared in NCDA’s web magazine, Career Convergence, at www.ncda.org. Copyright © 06/2012. Reprinted with permission.
Photo credit: soultga
Tagged with: autonomy • career development opportunities • career goals • institute of international education • interpersonal communication skills • interpersonal relationships • living a purposeful life • professional • study abroad programs • success tips • university career center
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