For many students, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn to navigate life in a new culture. Through this experience, you’re bound to grow personally and professionally as you broaden your mind to new perspectives.
But even though studying abroad can be an incredible, life-changing experience, is it worth including on your resume? The short answer is that it depends. If you can show that you gained valuable skills and experience from your time overseas -- and especially if that experience is relevant to the job you’re seeking -- it could absolutely be worth mentioning on your resume. Let’s go deeper into why and how you may want to do so.
Why list study abroad on your resume?
Studying abroad teaches skills that you can bring into almost any life pursuit. The soft skills you develop during this time can be invaluable in your professional life. Telling potential employers that you’ve studied abroad can show that you are open-minded, flexible, and unafraid to take risks. It demonstrates that you can adapt to new situations and that you’re willing to challenge yourself.
Having this kind of life experience can also help differentiate you from other job applicants and demonstrate your foreign language skills. When you’re applying for jobs at international or multinational companies, hiring managers may be glad to see that you’ve had experience living abroad and that you’re proficient in other languages.
Additionally, if you were working while in school before leaving the country, listing your time abroad can help explain the gap in your work history. It’s also worth mentioning any notable accomplishments or work experiences you had while overseas.
How to list study abroad on your resume
The most common way to list a study abroad experience is to include it in your resume's education section. It should go below your college or university name, in the bullet-point section where you list your educational achievements. Make sure to include the city and country you studied in, the university you attended, and the study abroad organization you went through.
Or, as an alternative, you can list the overseas institution you attended separately, followed by the name of the program you did.
Note that in the above example, the candidate has listed relevant coursework for the job he or she is applying for. We suggest only listing relevant coursework on your resume if you are still in school or have recently graduated -- as you delve into your professional career, your resume should become more focused on highlighting your work experience.
Many students choose to focus on their studies during their time overseas. However, if you did work or volunteer while studying abroad, you can detail those experiences in your work experience section. You should treat these experiences the same way as other past jobs you’ve held -- simply list the name of each employer, their location, the title of your role, and a few bullet points illustrating your best achievements.
Of course, you’ll want to give examples to illustrate the skills you’ve developed rather than simply listing them on your resume. Provide specific examples of times when you used your skills on your resume, in communication, multitasking, or handling uncertainty during your study abroad experience.
If you acquired any hard or technical skills while overseas, list them in a separate skills section on your resume. Note that your skills section should only be for listing hard skills such as softwares you’ve learned, certifications you’ve completed, or languages you’ve become proficient in. Soft skills should be demonstrated through examples in your work history.
Where else to mention your study abroad, apart from your resume
If your study abroad experience directly relates to the job you want, you can mention it in your cover letter. You may want to feature your time abroad even more prominently if you learned applicable skills or gained experience that fits closely with your desired job (e.g. if you would be working overseas or need to be proficient in another language).
Take some time to dig deep and reflect on your study abroad experience. As you’re writing your cover letter, think about what stood out to you the most, what you took away from the experience, and what skills you developed that could benefit you as a professional.
You can also add your study abroad experience to your LinkedIn profile. Your profile’s education, experience, and/or volunteer sections are all good potential places to list your time overseas. Just make sure to add some bullet points with accomplishments and relevant skills to your description of your time overseas. And make sure to optimize your LinkedIn profile before you start applying for jobs with it.
Parlaying your study abroad experience into a job
For those who dream of living and working overseas one day, studying abroad is a great first step towards that goal. It can give you a taste of life in another country, and it can also be a perfect opportunity to start making career connections in the place where you want to live.
Planning ahead is key to relocating and finding work in another country. Read on for some tips on how to make the most of your time overseas and create opportunities for your future life abroad.
- Network while overseas: If you’re hoping to find work overseas after graduation, use your time abroad to meet professional contacts, e.g. at international student groups. When it comes to networking, there is no such thing as “too soon” -- start building your network early, and you’ll have a long list of contacts to reach out to as soon as you’re out of school.
- Immerse yourself in the local language: On a similar note, if you’re planning to live and work in another country, you’ll want to master the local language. Even if you don’t become fluent in it, reaching at least a conversational level will enable you to communicate with the people around you in everyday situations -- and it’ll make networking much easier!
- Inquire at your school’s career center, alumni network, and/or study abroad organization about possible opportunities: Your university’s career center or alumni network may be able to connect you with job opportunities abroad -- or at least point you towards where you can find more information. You might also try contacting international recruitment agencies and other organizations that offer overseas job placement.
- Apply to work for an international company: Seek a position with a company that has international office locations. You could apply directly to a job at an overseas location, or you could seek a domestic job first and later ask to transfer overseas. Either way, working for an international company can give you the flexibility to decide where you want to be -- whether your goal is to return to your home country someday or permanently move elsewhere.