Being in a new environment, meeting people from across the world, learning lifelong skills, and gaining independence makes study abroad a time for important personal growth. In addition to the wonderful life experience that studying abroad offers, one of the lesser known benefits of studying abroad is the opportunities it presents for professional development.
Fear not, to achieve this professional development, you don’t need to sacrifice weekends of travel, nights out, and the overall sense of adventure that goes with studying abroad. Attaining professional development starts with simply being open minded and an innovative thinker. It doesn’t take much effort, but it will have a lasting impact on your future and will greatly enrich your overall study abroad experience.
According to Business Insider, 70% to 85% of jobs are not listed to the public, and instead are filled through networking. Studying abroad means exposure to a completely new academic environment filled with networking opportunities. Introducing yourself and maintaining close contact with your professors and peers is essential to building professional relationships that will endure well beyond your study abroad period. Take advantage of any social events or public lectures organized by your department and the study abroad office. These gatherings will allow you to meet professors, students, and other professionals who you might not otherwise meet. Putting yourself out there in this way can be intimidating. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your study abroad school wants to make you feel welcome and help in any way possible.
Using your study abroad experience to build a diverse network of people will be well worth it in the future. It will mean leaving with potential references or even future employers, getting you that much closer to realizing your career goals.
One of the best ways to demonstrate you’re a passionate self-starter to employers is by getting involved within your community. As a student, one of the best ways to get involved is by taking up extracurriculars. While you might be at your study abroad school for a limited amount of time, do not let this be a deterrent to joining extracurriculars. Clubs and societies are thrilled to build their membership, especially with international students, even if only for a little while. Do your research and choose clubs that align with you values and passions. Also, studying abroad is all about trying new things so use it as an opportunity to join a club that you otherwise would not at home. Joining clubs and even volunteering, if you’re legally able to do so, demonstrates to future employers that you made the most of your study abroad experience.
Moreover, if you can’t find any clubs at your school that pique your interest, or you’re more of a solitary person, pursue a passion project! Often with study abroad, you’re not legally entitled to work, and will therefore find yourself with more free time. This presents the perfect opportunity to write that novella you’ve been imagining, study that language you’ve always wanted to, or take up an entirely new hobby. Finally, with there being so much online now, it’s easy to enrol in an online course and acquire a new skill. Becoming an involved member of your study abroad school and making the most of your time abroad will translate into added experience and skills on your resume making you more employable.
In applying the above mentioned advice for your study abroad, it’s important to always remain open and prepared for future opportunities. That professor who you have built a professional relationship with might think of you the next time they hear of an internship opportunity. It’s important to market yourself and make it known if you’re looking for employment or other career advancement opportunities. As a student, the future is not always known so it’s imperative to keep an open mind and welcome unplanned opportunities because they could lead to even greater things. Keep an updated resume and any supplementary documents on hand when you’re outside your typical home environment so that you’re ready for any professional opportunities that come your way.
Transforming study abroad into an opportunity for professional development begins from the time you start researching where you want to go and continues for the duration of your study abroad experience. Being open to developing new relationships, involving yourself in extracurriculars, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and being prepared when opportunities come along are some surefire ways to set yourself up for success. Ultimately, your study abroad experience will be all the more immersive and it means that your connection to your study abroad city and school will be stronger. Study abroad can’t last forever (insert sad emoji here), so make the most of your time and make it count!