10 Ways to Sell Your Study Abroad Experience in a Job Interview

If you’re reading this, you were probably one of the almost 1,000 Cal Poly students who study abroad each year, or you plan to be. You probably spent the best weeks of your life in a foreign country dancing, eating, laughing, learning and growing. I did too.

But, after months of decadent foods, exciting nightlife and enough culture thrust onto you to last a lifetime, you’re back! You wise, cultured citizen of the world. And what does a globetrotter such as yourself do when they return from studying abroad? Well you start applying for adult jobs.

Naturally you want to use some of the most influential months of your life to your advantage, but it's not always clear how, or if there’s a direct connection you can make between sleeping in sketchy hostels and a finance internship.

To bridge that gap, here are some easy ways to incorporate your time abroad and give yourself an edge at your next interview.

1. Great Icebreakers

Maybe the company you’re interviewing at is really into non-profits and you volunteered while you were abroad. Or you saw something in the office that reminded you of where you lived. Do your homework and find a connection, it will calm your nerves and put everyone in a good mood.


2. Able to Adapt to Ever-Changing Situations

While you might have felt like crying when you missed your flight back to your host city, all an interviewer will see is how quickly you reacted and figured out a way home. Proving your flexibility will go a lot farther than just saying it.

3. Increased Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness

More and more businesses are expanding overseas, putting international employees in high demand. If you’re applying to a client-based position, it is absolutely in your best interest to highlight how you learned respect and understanding for other cultures and how you that translates directly to the job you want.

4. Personal Growth and Realizations

Since going abroad, being asked about my personal growth has become my favorite interview topic.I was a devoted journaler when abroad, and I love looking back and comparing my thoughts from the beginning versus the end of the program. I learned to step out of my comfort zone and act bravely without fear of embarrassment. Make it your own, you are the story that you know best.


5. Future-Focused and Have Long Term Goals

Something often overlooked is how much time, effort and planning goes into not just going abroad, but the trips you took while you were there. These are perfect examples of being able to set and achieve long-term goals.

6. More Decisive

In an unfamiliar country, you undoubtedly had to make tough decisions in an instant.  Those are perfect ways to show how you can effectively solve problems in a timely manner.

7. Improved Communication Skills

Remember how every job application recommends “strong verbal and written communication skills”? Remember having to communicate in a foreign country without knowing the language? I just think of every time I felt exasperated at a food cart trying to find vegetarian-friendly items. This one is quite obvious.


8. Perfect Examples for “Name a Time When…”

In more personal interviews, questions with this prompt will come up where you explain the problem, your action and the result. This can be examples of times you faced a challenge, or times you failed and how you grew or what you learned. It’s always good to have about three general examples in preparation of questions like this.

9.  Highlight the University You Attended

When I studied abroad in Paris, I took classes at one of the top business schools in France. Not only does the school’s name carry weight, but I can also mention how I grew by studying alongside French students. Maybe you visited companies in a similar industry, or went on a major-specific study abroad trip. Cal Poly offers a variety of options like these that can help you get ahead.


10. Talk about How Unique Your Experience Was

To you, your experience was unforgettable and no one can take that from you. However, studying abroad has become increasingly common, with about 304,467 American students going abroad in 2015, according to NAFSA. Talk about what separates your experience; what you’re proud of, or your biggest academic or personal accomplishment.

These are all general answers, but you should personalize your own! Next time you start to reminisce, think about your experiences analytically; what skills did you learn, or what did you improve on? Figure out your unique story and you’ll land a job in no time.