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7 Tricks for Making Your Study Abroad Experience Pop

13 Mar
"In front of Pudong Skyline" by leniners

“In front of Pudong Skyline” by leniners

In 2012-2013, the United States saw 289,396 students studying abroad. (1) While that is still on 1% of the student body population, the number is ever increasing. Add to that the students and people who are traveling via vacations, volunteer missions, immigration, military, and other international-related events and you have a surprising number of people with experience travelling abroad. In fact, in 2012, one billion people travelled abroad as tourists, and that doesn’t include those who go on a different type of VISA, such as teaching or business.(2)  

Studying abroad is a highly advantageous experience; offering a wide number of benefits from increased confidence and self-determination to broader understanding of how the world works.  Still, perhaps the #1 reason why most students go abroad is the concept of resume-stuffing.  When launching ourselves into a new career, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd; especially when most students have little practical work experience to fall back on.  Study abroad is one of the ways we give ourselves an edge over other candidates.

But now the word is out – Studying internationally offers excellent opportunities, builds your qualifications, and is fun to boot. So more and more people are joining the group of college and high schoolers stepping on planes  every summer, winter, spring, and fall.  

When the goal is to make yourself stand out, it’s starting to be more difficult to achieve this with study abroad. Too many people are doing it along with you. So how do you make your Study Abroad experience POP! What will help you rise above the crowd, pushing you in front once again?

1. Try a long Summer or Semester

Many programs in the Winter or Summer are actually pretty short. The two to three-week jaunt is pretty popular for universities, more like a small tour than classroom experience. While the shorter programs have a lot to offer (easy to fit into schedules, allows time for other experiences, lower costs), there is something to be said for taking a month or semester long program.  Attending a foreign university, taking actual classes with substantial assignments, getting more time to make the most of your trip and all the trip has to offer.  It will add to the legitimacy of you program in the eyes of Interviewers.

2. Step Out of Your Box

I say this quite frequently, but don’t just follow the program guide. Try planning your own adventures; adding friends or locals is even better. Too many students want to follow the schedule and then hang out at the hotel or nearby club. While the clubbing may certainly be fun; neither of those things adds to your hire-ability.  Instead, use the time to visit a museum, check out the main sights, try to get new and unique experiences. Feast at a random, untested food stall on the street. Go to an unmapped area in the city and wander the streets to see what you find. Employers who  look at study abroaders are significantly looking for people who show initiative, adventurousness, and adaptability. The best way to demonstrate that is to offer examples of times when you struck off the main roads and did something new and daring.  

3. Choose Well-Known Schools

One of the surprising things about Study Abroad is that it is usually easier to study with a reputable university for a short term than a long one. A lot of universities that would overlook you as a full-time student will gladly accept you as a student in their global program.  There is also the opportunity to pick a program at one of the hundreds of internationally recognized universities with ranking similar if not equal to US Ivy Schools. The international world of education has a lot to offer. Studying abroad is an easy way to study at a somewhat better (or more well-known) school than you otherwise might have.  

4. Pick Up a Internship

For some reason, most students don’t take internships into consideration when studying abroad. However, adding on work experience is one of the best ways to boost your resume.  You can find a lot of programs that offer an internship as part of the program itself (e.g. I studied with Fordham who organized a month-long internship with Samsung’s Legal Team in Seoul at the end of their summer program).  But you can also go out and find your own internship. Contact local companies; get ahold of your university’s career office and see if they have any contacts. 

5. Build Connections (and communication skills)

One of the worst mistakes Student Abroaders make is to hang out with fellow internationals and ignore opportunities to meet the locals.  It’s easier and more reassuring to sit and chat the night away with fellow English-Speaking members of your group than to stick yourself out there. But one of the skills to market to Employers on your return is that very skill – The ability to communicate with people regardless of background, culture, or language. Plus, you’d be amazed at the fascinating people you might meet! By opening up to the locals, you’ll meet expats who have had superstar careers or travelled to 150+ countries, local businessmen who own cool companies and invent awesome things,  maybe even some connections to help your career. Speaking of which, deliberately seek to meet and introduce yourself to people in your career field – ask for appointments, request interviews, and keep in touch with all the people you meet via LinkedIn or Email.

6. Take time on your Own

Having tested out several different types of study abroad programs, I found that the best and most beneficial experience were the trips I struck it off for a few days on my own. Maybe it’s just for a weekend trip from Madrid to Paris or jetsetting off for the holiday down to Shanghai. Or even just scooping out the little village an hour out. Planning and successfully completing a trip on your own in a foreign country is an amazing opportunity, and it grows you somehow. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it shows you and your hirers that you have it to go. Dump you in a complex, difficult situation, and you can thrive. That’s not something a lot of students abroad do, but it sure helps you move out from the crowd.

7. Don’t slack on the Grades

Don’t use the study abroad trip as a chance to slack off and grab easy grades. Did you know that a lot of schools offer “Highest Grade in. . . . ” even for study abroad classes?  It looks great on your resume if you can grab something like that. Plus, this is a good chance to boost your grades since Study Abroad classes tend to be more laid back and relaxed.  Use this as a chance to show people that you can adapt and succeed in any situation, even classes in a totally different country, maybe in a second language.


Encouragement for Students Job Searching!

19 Feb

Students everywhere are beginning to feel the coming dread; summer ever approaches, nearer and nearer.  It is officially time to find internships and jobs for the summer.  The interview period has arrived, particularly for law students who are facing the early interviewing period at their law schools.  These are the weeks when the top law firms around the nation visit school after school looking for the best interviewees to hire on for the summer.  For those chosen, it means increased odds for an excellent/high-paying job after graduation.  For the rest, it means disappointment, rejection, and the continued need for determination and faith in oneself and the potentials of the world. 

As such, I thought I’d share this poem by Rudyard Kipling in honor of those students heading off for the wonderful world of applications, dressing up, and much praying.  His words of wisdom have gotten me through college applications, several job interviews, and every other time in my life when I needed a few drops of extra courage.  I actually have it pasted to a bulletin board in my bedroom so I have it on hand every day. Hope he does the same for you!  Good luck!


by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too/
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools.
If you can make one heap of all your winning
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss.
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss.
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings–nor lose the common touch.
If neither foes not loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!
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