Kathryn Wilson is a student at the University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Madrid, Spain.
“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” Now that my semester abroad in Madrid, Spain is coming to an end, I am thinking about how to explain 4 months of my life to family, friends and future employers. It’s a common perception that students who study abroad are positively differentiated from others; but, why?
It can be difficult to communicate the skills students gain throughout living in a foreign country. Through my past 4 months in Madrid, I have been able to identify 3 key qualities of character I have developed, which makes me more marketable in the real world. While I can say my favorite food in Madrid was the churros con chocolate, I think these 3 qualities will pose much more weight in a job interview about my study abroad experience.
Studying abroad in general requires students who are flexible. Being adaptable is a wonderful skill that employers look for in their workers because it signifies that they are able to go with the flow. I’ve learned to be adaptable through eating food I would not have eaten back home in the USA. Also, adapting to a completely new culture and new schedule can be hard at first, but making the effort to immerse yourself in a new culture shows future employers you are easy to work with, which is a huge plus.
Many students chose to study abroad in order to gain language experience in another country. This is the most obvious advantage to employers about the skills gained from studying abroad. Also, students who chose to immerse themselves in the language tend to have higher language skills than just taking those classes back at home. Since the world is becoming so diverse and interdependent, speaking another language really adds to your resume and makes you a more credible and highly qualified candidate for any job. For example, I’ve chosen to live in a homestay while in Madrid and I only communicate with my host mom in Spanish. As a result, I’ve become much more fluent and comfortable speaking Spanish with native Spanish speakers, which is something I would not have been able to accomplish back home.
Living a whole continent away from all family members can be very scary at first, but you will learn how to adapt and thrive in your new temporary home. Through navigating Skype and Facetime as well as other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, study abroad students learn to communicate and connect with loved ones over 1,000 miles away. Many students even create blogs and websites, also important internet skills to have, to keep their family up to date about their lives abroad. These new internet skills also are important to employers. Many companies now are growing through social media marketing and it is important to have these skills on your resume. For most of us, updating a Facebook page back home is for fun, but for many companies it is a vital source of their marketing campaign and having someone with strong internet skills would be a major bonus for them.
Study abroad has been an incredible experience for personal growth as well as professional growth and because of my experience, I know I will be more marketable back in the USA.