Why Students Should Reflect On Their Study Abroad Experience
According to a College Employment Research Institute (CERI) Research Brief, the impact of study abroad on students’ career development is strengthened when students can reflect on their experiences and convey to potential employers how the skills they learned have contributed to their career development.
According to CERI, "Study abroad has value to employers but students have to unpack or critically reflect on their international academic experiences and reframe their stories in the context of the workplace. The value of study abroad depends on how well the student can reflect on his or her experience. Then they must successfully articulate to the employer the skills gained and how these skills/competencies can apply in the workplace."
Trooboff, S., Vande Berg, M., & Rayman J. (2007) write further:
"Not surprisingly, employers, as a group, place the highest value on students’ academic majors when hiring—and the degree of preference they show for academic major in hiring for entry-level positions far exceeds any other educational experience listed. Employers looking for engineers do not hire accountants just because they have studied abroad. However, employers do value both college/university study abroad and completing an internship abroad to a greater extent than all but one other type of educational experience: majoring or minoring in a foreign language."
Although studying abroad unquestionably aids students’ career development, potential employers may not necessarily value study abroad participation, but rather, the skills students develop during study abroad. Therefore, study abroad participants must be able to demonstrate the relevance of their experiences abroad to the workplace. Unfortunately, some students are unable to do this.
To aid study abroad participants in connecting study abroad to the workplace, following are links to reflection exercises to help students make sense of the professional development that occurred while abroad.
- Gardner, P., Gross, L., & Steglitz, I. (2008). College Employment Research Institute Research Brief 1-2008.
- Norris, E. M., & Gillespie, J. (2009). How Study Abroad Shapes Global Careers: Evidence From the United States. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(3): 382-397.
- Paige, R. M., Fry, G. W., Stallman, E. M., Josic, J., & Jon, J-E. (2009). Study abroad for global engagement: the long-term impact of mobility experiences. Intercultural Education, S1-2: S29-44.
- Trooboff, S., Vande Berg, M., & Rayman J. (2007). Employer Attitudes toward Study Abroad. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 25(Fall/Winter): 17-33.