It might be because I just returned from my own trip to Europe, but I have recently been thinking about the value of studying abroad. More years ago than I care to admit, I spent my junior year in Leuven, Belgium (see above), and it remains one of the best decisions I ever made.
As companies like Protiviti continue to establish or expand their global footprints, the experience of travel becomes more relevant. The obvious correlation is that going abroad as a student is a good indicator that you could go abroad again as a professional. However, there are other more subtle ways of utilizing your travel experience to build your case as a solid candidate.
It takes self-reliance to step out of the comfort zone of campus life and into a new environment. Prove that you did this successfully when you joined a rafting trip down the Zambezi River, and assert that you will do so again when you join the corporate world.
Study abroad is about translating the unfamiliar into something that you can understand and apply. Prove that you did this when you put peanut butter on your sadza, and describe how you will do it all again when you learn and apply your potential employer’s business.
When you go abroad, you are not only challenged to break down barriers and form new relationships; you are also faced with the barrier of distance as you attempt to stay connected to home. Show that you learned the value of communication when you used your conversational Dutch to navigate your family through the streets of Amsterdam. Emphasize that you will do so again when you work with coworkers and clients to build a professional network.
Living in another world is a balance of your expectations and the reality with which you are presented. Relate your ability to manage that balance when you waited for two hours in a petrol line during your field trip to San Gimignano. Confirm that you will do so again when you match your career ambitions to the needs of the hiring organization.
For better or worse, studying abroad is nothing if not character-building. Explain the discoveries you made about yourself and the impact of your experience. Talk about the direction it provided and the values it confirmed. Even if you can’t always guarantee where you are going, prove that you are charting a promising course based on where you have been.