Thursday, March 1, 2012

Study Abroad: How This Experience Has Continued to Help Me in My Career Search

This week's post is written by Kai K. Harvey, sophomore economics major at CU-Boulder

Studying abroad is one of the most valuable experiences you can have while in college. Anyone who has spent time studying in another country is sure to tell you that taking the adventure and dedicating time to travel was one of the best decisions they made as an undergrad. There are lots of reasons why studying abroad is a great idea, but what a lot of people don’t realize is just how beneficial it can be for your career.

Last semester, I traveled to Lima, Peru and directly enrolled in a university there. I studied with Peruvians, hung out with Peruvians, and lived with Peruvians. Apart from being an absolute blast, I have just started realizing exactly how much my time abroad will help me advance my career goals and job search. One of the obvious benefits of spending time in Peru was practicing and improving my Spanish with fluent speakers. Before I traveled to Peru I spoke a little Spanish, but I just wasn’t comfortable putting “Fluent in Spanish” as a skill on my resume. Now, my Spanish has greatly improved to the point of fluency! Speaking a second language gives you a huge advantage over other candidates when applying for a job.

Beyond the language skills, I experienced world issues from a unique perspective. I’m an Econ major, so getting to see the issues surrounding economic development in a third-world country in person was invaluable to me. After spending time in Peru, I now have a better understanding of the significance of economic diversification, infrastructure, exchange rates, foreign investment, and the effect that lack of access to higher education has on the stratification of social classes.

Seeing these issues outside of the United States allowed me to draw comparisons and more accurately analyze their roles in countries’ economies. This knowledge is incredibly important for me to have, so when I interview with a potential employer I can bring the information I have learned to the company, whereas many other candidates could not do so.
Aside from everything I’ve already listed, studying abroad can enhance your skills and resume. Studying abroad can be compared to an internship because of the amount of invaluable life skills you learn. My advice to CU students would be to list their study abroad experience on their resume and highlight the skills they learned from this experience.

My time abroad benefited me in more ways than I could have imagined. I had the time of my life, broadened my worldview, became educated on foreign policy and foreign politics and furthered my career. If you’re hesitant about living in a different country, just ask someone who has studied abroad about their experience. I guarantee that the experience will be worth it for you personally and professionally!