Your time abroad has come to an end. Although you are no longer able to spend your weekends traveling to other countries, doing your homework on a sandy Australian beach, napping under the Spanish sun in Retiro Park or embracing the energetic city of Beijing, your time abroad is still a valuable asset to your future.
If you take a moment to think about all the ways you’ve grown during your semester abroad, consider how these experiences have helped cultivate skill sets that will undoubtedly contribute to a successful future. I’m not talking about skills like how many churros you can eat in one sitting or being able to ask where the nearest bathroom is in Thai – I’m referring to skills such critical thinking and problem solving, plus your newfound independence and greater self-confidence.
Let’s face it: studying abroad is a ton of fun, but no new experience is hiccup-free. Booking flights, hostels, trains and tickets in countries whose language you don’t speak, maneuvering through foreign public transportation, figuring out exchange rates and communicating in a foreign language are just some of the many experiences of studying abroad have better prepared you for a successful future. Students who go abroad are forced to be responsible, organized and independent.
You are bound to have an interview at some time in your life where the potential employer will ask you some behavioral questions. These are questions such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to be a leader,” or “Tell me about a time when you conquered a difficult challenge.” The times when you missed a bus or a flight, or lost your passport or got lost in general, and how you dealt with it, will show demonstrate leadership skills and ability to think on your feet.
One story that I have memorized for just such an interview question occurred when I was abroad traveling through Italy, where my friends and I got on the wrong boat and ended up five towns away from the place that we were staying. We had to be flexible, find a solution and carry on. Although none of us spoke Italian, we were able to find someone to point us in the direction of the train station and were able to take a train back to our hostel. Not only did we solve the problem, but we also got to see a part of the country that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Sharing this story with a potential employer is a great way for me to tell him or her about my positive attitude despite changing circumstances, and my ability to navigate difficult situations.