Those who have, currently are, or will, study abroad can all attest to the benefits of doing so. Phrases such as “life-changing,” “amazing,” “eye-opening,” and “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” pop up in almost every conversation about someone’s experiences abroad. But you need to be willing to dig deeper when speaking (and writing) about time spent exploring. So just how should you convey that “amazing” experience on your resume?
It’s a lot of information and it can feel overwhelming when trying to accurately and meaningfully communicate an experience abroad on a one-page resume (on top of all other education, internships, skills, and work experiences on there already). Here are a few tips on how to get it all in there so you will stand out as the one to hire.
1. Include Your Study Abroad Program in Your Resume’s Education Section
You have several ways of handling this. If your study abroad was for a full semester or a full year, you could list it separately from your home institution as you would if you were a transfer student within the United States; you earned academic credits while abroad and transferred them to your home institution, and it was significant educational experience. If you earned credits from your home institution while studying abroad, that information can be prominent among other information about your study at your home institution, along with your GPA, academic honor societies, research with professors, etc.
If you did not earn academic credits during your study abroad, you should list it first or early among your college activities.
2. Include Your Study Abroad Program in Your Resume’s Experience Section
Your resume’s “Experience” section should include activities during your study abroad program such as interning, volunteering, or conducting research for a professor or nonprofit. You should also include any university or community projects that you completed before and/or after your study abroad program and that were related to it. (Gilman Scholarship recipients must complete a project after their study abroad program.)
3. Include Your Language Proficiency in Your Resume’s “Skills” Section
Many employers need or want employees who can speak a language besides English, and other employers will be impressed with that skill even if a job does not require it. You should be specific and honest about your proficiencies (which may not be the same) in speaking, reading and writing a language. If you are unsure how to judge your own ability, ask a language professor. If your study abroad involved learning or using a second language, your resume could refer to your study abroad program more than once, in both the “Education” section and in the “Skills” section—for example, “Intermediate Level Spanish (studied in Spain).”
4. Think Deeply about Your Growth during Your Study Abroad Program
You surely learned new skills, which might include, for example, frequently communicating with people who know little or no English. You definitely improved skills you already had, which might have included adapting to many changes, successfully dealing with uncertainty, or solving unforeseen problems. You might have discovered skills that you did not know you had, such as artistic skills or truly enjoying talking with people who you just met. Employers especially appreciate skills such as handling stress well, eagerly learning new skills, or showing resourcefulness. Don’t be shy about describing your skills; the job market is extremely competitive.
5. List Your New Connections as References
With their permission, of course, list your study abroad professor, advisor and/or supervisor from your time abroad on your resume, but only if they know you well. Go ahead and list not only their email addresses but also their telephone numbers. Make sure that you get job titles and other details correct You should tell them what kinds of jobs that you will be applying for (if you know), and also let them know when you think they will receive an email or a call (along with specific facts they should know about the company and the job). Even if an employer does not contact your international reference, the employer may want to talk with you about your relationship with that person and that’s another opportunity to talk about your study abroad program.