Study Abroad: Make The Most Of Your Experience

Greek Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church

You can learn a lot about the world by living for a time in another country.  Employers like to see cultural experience on a resume, especially if they do business with executives who were raised and educated abroad or have contracts with companies in other countries.

When you interview for an internship or job, talk about your time abroad in terms that highlight the value you bring to the position.

Academics: Plan ahead so that you will be able to take courses that meet your graduation requirements.  That might mean saving your electives and completing most of the courses in your major before you leave.  A little investigation may yield study abroad programs that will enhance your major field of study better than others.  When you return, find intersections between your studies and living abroad.

Cultural Exposure: Don’t spend your time with your room- or housemates.  Explore the town or city.  Get to know some of the locals by greeting and beginning conversations however limited your grasp of the language.  Unless advised otherwise, take public transportation or walk.  Make adults your target because they will have a broader perspective and a wider range or experience.  Take note of particular people or events that you will want to share with employers.

Just spending time outside the US isn’t enough to qualify for cultural literacy.  It’s necessary to actually experience the other culture as though it was going to become your own.

Here are some ways to make use of time spent living and learning to “Walk like an Egyptian“.

  1. Visit museums and locally important placesPunakha, Bhutan
  2. Attend festivals, services at the place of worship you favor, public events
  3. If its the custom in the country where you will be studying, learn to haggle and bargain
  4. Speak the language as often as possible.  It makes you look smart and friendly.
  5. Become familiar with customs and laws

Playing it Safe: The laws and customs vary from country to country.  Be respectful of the dress codes for work, school, and casual occasions so that you don’t embarrass yourself or you hosts.  In many places the short shorts and midriff baring tops worn at home are considered inappropriate.

Likewise, the law and customs regarding alcohol, pot and other drugs are different.  As a non-resident you may be judged harshly if you break a law that would earn you a warning if done at home.  Assume that you will not be able to get away with violations that a “townie” (local resident) teenager can slip under the radar.  In most countries you do not have the same rights-an attorney, presumption of innocence, lenience toward young adults- that Americans at home have.  The embassy may not be able to assist you if you get into legal trouble.

In Europe, teenagers may be permitted to drink beer and wine in public establishments.  Being 7 or 8 hours from home will not increase your tolerance for alcohol,  or reduce the likelihood of doing something you wouldn’t do sober.

Bottom Line:  Bring your most mature behavior with you.  Have a good time, meet lots of great people, prepare to use what you experience to help you in the job market.

elephant-241624_640If you are looking for a Gap Year experience outside the US or want to lean how to turn you Study Abroad into a job attracting tool, text or call Stephanie 610-212-6679; the email is stephaine@accessguidance.com.

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