How to Talk About Study Abroad in a Job Interview

How to Talk About Study Abroad in an Interview

When alumni reflect on their academic careers, studying abroad is often the part that stands out from all the other memories. That’s often where they learn to adapt to their circumstances, to think on their feet, and to hone their leadership skills. When it’s time for graduates to look for a job, all of these attributes are in high demand.

Because each experience is so unique, it can be difficult to know how to talk about your study abroad experience in a job interview. However, it is important to highlight the lessons you took away from your study abroad experience because they’re often what employers are looking for.

Write It Down

Before you go into an interview, take some time to write down some of the key ways in which you grew as a result of your study abroad experience. Did you gain skills in any of the following areas?

Communication

Even if you didn’t have to learn a new language in the country where you studied, it’s likely that your communication skills were sharpened as you navigated the workplace in a different country. You might have faced a slightly different vocabulary or accents. Whatever challenge you faced, your communication skills were put to the test. Be sure to describe to potential employers how your communication skills improved as a result of your time abroad.

Adaptability

 Any time you leave your comfort zone, you’re forced to adapt to your surroundings. During your study abroad experience, you were faced with new customs, languages, food and traditions, not to mention a new group of people you were traveling with. All of these disruptions in your everyday life led you to become a more adaptable person, which translates easily to the workplace. Now that you’re in the working world, you will face situations that will force you to adapt with patience and competence.

Courage

 If you have the courage to study abroad, you have what it takes to show courage at work. It takes courage to leave your country and head to a place where everything is unfamiliar to you. In the workplace, this courage is necessary to truly make a difference. Without courage, you aren’t willing to take risks that will ultimately benefit your company. During a job interview, don’t be afraid to highlight courage as one of your positive qualities.

Cultural Awareness

It doesn’t take much time outside of your home country to learn that the world is full of vastly different cultures. Your study abroad experience enabled you to learn about another culture, but more importantly, it enabled you to see your own culture from a different perspective.

In the workplace, you’re likely to run into people from different cultures, although the experience might not be as extreme as when you were studying abroad. Tell your interviewers how you handled cultural differences when you studied abroad.

Leadership

 Your study abroad experience could be what sets you apart from the other job candidates. Make sure you come up with a few key points that illustrate how you plan to apply your time abroad to your new job.

Think of a few specific stories that you can share with the interviewers. Maybe you got lost on your way to your hotel on your first day there and had to ask for directions in a foreign language. No matter what your story is, briefly explain the scenario and then describe how you worked through the difficulties and fund success.

Problem-Solving

When you think about it, employers are essentially hiring employees because they need help solving problems. That’s why problem-solving is the most important skill any employee can bring to the workplace. While you were abroad, you probably ran into problems every day, such as:

  • How do I find a train route to a site I wanted to visit?
  • How can I communicate with people who don’t speak my language?
  • How do I navigate cultural differences?
  • What if my passport is lost or stolen while I’m in a foreign country?

Think through these problems as well as other challenges you faced while studying abroad. Whether you realize it or not, you came up with a solution for all of these problems. When it’s time to talk about your problem-solving skills in a job interview, you can apply the same skills to problems you face in the working world.

Keep It Brief

It’s likely that you came back from your time abroad armed with many anecdotes. When you head into your interview, make sure you keep these stories brief so that you can focus on telling them how you will apply what you learned to help the company solve problems. It can be easy to make your stories long-winded, which can make the interviewer impatient.

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